New research by Auckland Council suggests more Aucklanders agree with intensification for the city's future growth under the Unitary Plan.
The Housing Challenges report was undertaken as qualitative research to test the temperature of Aucklanders' opinions. It involved a wide range of ethnicities, age, gender, areas of Auckland - plus renters and home owners in a variety of accommodation (including apartment dwellers and detached home owners) in 15 in-home interviews.
Council chief operating officer, Dean Kimpton, says the interviews generally showed Aucklanders approved of the concept of intensification. They all understood figures like Auckland growing by more than 800 new residents every week, by 40,000 people last year and projections for a million more within 30 years.
"They saw intensification positively, as a concept," he says. "They can see better use of space and making more housing available will bring a greater range of price choices."
Good quality housing
Kimpton says the respondents saw the real issue as how to provide good quality housing, an issue which is expected to be addressed when the council receives the Independent Hearings Panel recommendations on the Unitary Plan - the region's new planning rulebook managing future development of Auckland's housing and infrastructure.
The interviews, he said, showed people wanted intensified housing done well - attractive, well-designed and built housing which fitted the character of the neighbourhood and which would have capital gain.
They wanted them to be in an area with good infrastructure like schools, shops and transport, with green spaces, a sense of community and which were safe - and the feeling was there were few current examples, he says.
Affordability was also consistently quoted by respondents as a benefit of intensification.
"The core element of what we have tried to achieve under the proposed Unitary Plan is give residents choice - that can be apartments, townhouses, medium-density or high-rise accommodation or affordable housing like we have been providing in the Special Housing Areas (SHAs)," says Kimpton.
"It's not a question of whether we go up or out - it's a matter of doing both. The question really is, have we got the right approach? I believe we have."
Special Housing Areas
However, he also feels strongly many people do not understand what the council has already achieved. Plans exist for more than 96,000 dwellings in either consented subdivisions or SHAs.
There are some 154 SHAs from Orewa in the north to Clark's Beach in the south, with a projected yield of 62,000 new homes in areas across Auckland to help combat the housing crisis through fast-track development, including affordable housing.
The latest, and final, tranche of 36 SHAs and extension of six existing areas equates to about 3400 new houses and sections on 240 hectares.
"About 45 per cent of those consents were for apartments, showing that there has been a change in demand in the market," says Kimpton. "We know quality is important - and we know the move to 'go up' has to deal with that."
Ensuring build quality
Part of the problem, he says, is a hot housing market can lead to issues with build quality: "At the moment, up to a third of all housing inspections are being rejected on the grounds of build quality and workmanship.
"We hear a lot about growth and supply - we have a target of 13,000 homes a year but only 9,000 consents are being signed off and about 6,000 actually being built," says Kimpton, adding that delays due to poor quality workmanship and inspections being failed are part of the reason, as well as cases where land owners or developers decide not to proceed.
Kimpton adds Auckland already has enough land for housing development for 7-8 years - with another 7-8 years' worth coming on-stream soon, enough for another 110,000 housing units.
Panuku Development Auckland
Few respondents also realised the extent of the work being done by the council's Panuku Development Auckland arm, tasked with re-generation - including in Pukekohe, Avondale, the major affordable housing project at Hobsonville, Link Crescent and work across Auckland providing housing for older people.
That's in addition to the impact of the council's Development Programme Office in speeding up and supporting private development.
After the Independent Hearings Panel makes full recommendations on the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan to the council on July 22, the council has until August 19 to decide what to accept, with decisions being made in several public meetings from August 10-18. A limited appeal period will close on September 16.