A spring surge of new building consents has pushed the rate of housing consents and new section creation across Auckland to within 3 per cent of the Government's target for the past year.
Auckland Council figures issued today show that 12,709 new sections or homes were created or consented in the year to September 30, just 2.2 per cent short of the target of 13,000 set in the housing accord between the council and the Government two years ago.
New homes and sections exceeded the target of 9000 for the first year of the three-year accord, with 11,060 new homes or sections consented or created in the year to September last year, so they have now exceeded the target for the first two years combined by 1806.
Auckland Mayor Len Brown and Housing Minister Nick Smith said they were confident that the city's building industry could still achieve the target of 17,000 new homes and sections in the third and final year of the accord, which has now started. But Dr Smith admitted: "It is the Year 3 target that will stretch us."
Dr Smith said a major constraint on continued growth was now a shortage of skilled trades people after a huge jump in Aucklanders employed in construction from 45,000 to 75,000 over the past three years.
He said he and Mr Brown talked today about ways to boost the construction trades.
Mr Brown said the Government played a major role in both funding training institutions and encouraging secondary school students to pursue careers in trades.
"We've gone off the boil in terms of promoting trades. Construction trades is a great career opportunity," he said.
He said the council was also struggling to build roads and other infrastructure for new housing developments and he and Dr Smith discussed ways to overcome the problem.
"Much of that is back to NZTA (NZ Transport Agency). I'll be having discussions with the Ministry of Transport," Mr Brown said.
Dr Smith said he also hoped to accelerate building through further reforms to the Resource Management Act and through deals with developers to build housing on surplus Crown land.
"The council has expressed to the Government a view that we need to ensure that we are getting more scale builders involved," he said. "We are going to be partnering with companies."
The figure of 12,709 new sections and homes in the latest year was made up of building consents for 8721 homes and Land Information NZ data showing that 3988 additional sections were created where no building consents have yet been issued.
However only 797 of the building consents in the latest year, and 1226 altogether over the first two years of the accord, were in the 106 special housing areas created under the accord to speed up new house building.
Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford said the whole aim of the housing accords - to fast-track consenting in special housing areas - was misconceived because slow consenting was "not the main problem".
"The only credible short-term way to deal with the problem is a Government-backed building programme where the Government works with private sector builders and architects but actually builds affordable homes and sells them into the market," he said.
He said the National Government was slowly being "dragged towards that conclusion" and was responding by redevelopment in Tamaki and by seeking partners to build on surplus Crown land.
"But they won't do it at scale."
Today's council report says "approximately 500" homes have actually been completed in the special housing areas.
This appears to be a big increase on the 102 homes known to the council to have been completed by October 8, reported in the Herald this month. But most of the difference is likely to be accounted for by houses built in the special areas but where developers opted not to use the housing accord's fast-track rules, which require a proportion of houses to be set aside as "affordable".
Dr Smith said all 108 homes completed in the Weymouth special area were sold for less than the current definition of "affordable", which is up to $578,250, and a new precinct at Hobsonville unveiled yesterday had committed to offering 30 per cent of homes in the "affordable" range.
Mr Brown said council officials had not yet set up a system to record homes completed under the housing accord rules when their compliance consent certificates were issued.
"I am literally sitting on the officers to get them to deliver a more comprehensive and clearer line on exactly the number of houses built in special housing areas," he said.
"They keep telling me within a short space of time they should be able to give us that."