Saturday, December 4

Housing density plan: mayors surprised by announcement

The mayors of some of the country’s largest cities have been caught off guard by the government’s announcement on housing density.

Housing Minister Megan Woods, left, Environment Minister David Parker on display, and National Leader Judith Collins.  The parties worked together on a bill to amend the Resource Management Law, making it easier to build houses.

Housing Minister Megan Woods, left, Environment Minister David Parker on display, and National Leader Judith Collins. The parties worked together on plans to modify the RMA to facilitate housing construction.
Photo: Pool / Robert Kitchin / Things

National and the government have teamed up to cut red tape by August next year with the goal of making it easier to build more apartments and townhouses.

The councils were kept in the dark until the day of the announcement.

Many of them have already started working on their district’s plans to comply with a government directive last year to increase housing density.

Changes to the Resource Management Act (RMA) would allow people to develop up to three houses of up to three stories in most sections without the need for a resource consent, with exemptions for heritage areas and natural hazards.

Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington and Christchurch would be required to adopt medium density residential standards and could result in 105,000 new homes in the next eight years.

But Wellington Mayor Andy Foster had been surprised by the changes.

“The announcement made, over time, will fundamentally change the appearance of our major cities. It would have been nice to have some commitment on this with the government in advance,” he said.

The timing was particularly poor, as the council’s district plan went out for consultation today.

“What we now have to tell the public is that the nature of our city’s outer residential areas may well change significantly from what was announced,” he said.

He was concerned that the escalation in the outer suburbs could lead to more people driving into the city, something that ran counter to plans to get more people to use public and active transportation.

Christchurch Deputy Mayor Andrew Turner endorsed the intensification of urban centers.

But he was also concerned about more traffic coming into the CBD and wanted assurances that this would not lead to higher density in unsuitable areas.

“I would be very concerned if this causes significant densification in places like Akaroa, for example, which are within the Christchurch district but far removed from the Christchurch urban area.

“And also, if we were looking for significant densification in, say, Rolleston or Rangior, that was increasing the amount of traffic coming into the city,” he said.

Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate said the city could “irrevocably change.”

“The reality is that the standards announced today are much more relaxed than the current district plan rules.

“They will allow for pretty radical changes in height, as well as how close and how high you can build to the front and side boundaries of the sections. They are important and will change the appearance of some of our neighborhoods.”

RMA changes will transmit consents one year ahead of schedule.

Southgate backed this, but said the new time frame would add pressure to an already stretched board.

“It’s a lot for us to deal with in the infrastructure space, there is water with the RMA review and so on, so this is another job that we have to adapt to.

“The councils are of course under pressure and we are also dealing with the pressures of Covid-19,” he said.

He wanted the central government to meet with them in part with funding for infrastructure and transportation.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff also wanted more funding.

“With the growth rate that we have and the cost of infrastructure, particularly with construction inflation and all the challenges that come with it, we need a lot more money to be able to create the infrastructure to maximize the level of housing construction,” he said .

The government has committed $ 3.8 billion to councils through the Housing Acceleration Fund, but Goff said it was not enough.

All of the RNZ mayors and vice mayors spoke to support higher-density housing to increase the stock, but they are also willing to put their grain of sand in the changes when the bill opens for presentation.

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