Auckland Council calls for changes to government’s enabling housing supply bill

Publish Date : 17 Nov 2021

Auckland Council is calling on the government to address the significant impacts on Auckland from the proposed widespread intensification, poor housing design and the inability to deliver infrastructure crucial for supporting new communities within its Enabling Housing Supply Bill.

In a submission on the Bill, the council has reiterated its strong support for enabling more higher-density housing close to the city centre and larger urban centres, jobs and public transport, consistent with its quality compact city approach for managing growth. 

In 2020 the council welcomed the National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS UD), and its focus on further intensification in these areas.

However, the council is seeking changes to this latest government proposal which would see widespread intensification dispersed across the city in places not served by essential public transport, water, and community infrastructure and in areas located far away from employment centres. This includes smaller coastal and rural towns on the outskirts of the city.

Mayor Phil Goff says Auckland has a serious problem with housing shortages and affordability, but the draft Bill must be improved to properly address the critical causes of the housing challenge.

“Under Auckland’s Unitary Plan, zoning changes enable more than 900,000 additional dwellings. We are already consenting up to 20,000 homes a year, four times what we were a decade ago, and around two-thirds of new consents are for intensive housing.

“The constraint on housing in Auckland is not zoning changes but the cost of the infrastructure needed to support new developments, as well as skills and building materials shortages.

“A key concern is that in the current Bill, inadequate design standards will allow construction of homes that don’t provide residents with a good quality of life. It’s about ensuring that occupants have a well-functioning and liveable home with privacy, access to sunlight and green space, and connections to wider infrastructure and community amenities. We are keen to work with government and developers of intensive housing with a reputation for excellence to remedy that.

“We’re equally concerned that by allowing for intensification away from needed infrastructure such as public transport, existing problems of carbon emissions, congestion, and meeting infrastructure costs will worsen.

“We will be urging government to make changes so that the Bill is fit for purpose, allowing good quality intensification in areas with the infrastructure, amenities and services to support it,” Phil Goff said.

The submission highlights the continued success of the Auckland Unitary Plan which removed many of the city’s density controls in 2016, boosting housing supply with a variety of housing types and enabling a more efficient use of infrastructure.

Overall, it has enabled over 900,000 homes to be built in residential areas alone, of which around 650,000 are commercially viable.

Chair of the Planning Committee, Councillor Chris Darby, says that the council supports making it quicker and easier for quality medium density housing to be built but believes the proposed design standards in the Bill will lead to poor housing and wellbeing outcomes.

“In our submission we are proposing a cross-sector working group to strengthen the Bill and improve built form and wellbeing outcomes for all communities affected by the Bill.

“We propose the group includes representatives of professional design bodies such as the NZ Institute of Architects, the development sector like Urban Development Institute of New Zealand and Property Council, and complemented by design and planning expertise from the Ministry for the Environment, Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and Tier 1 councils.

“This group should be working in parallel with the Select Committee over the next three weeks to develop a comprehensive suite of national design standards that will be recommended as solutions for incorporation into the committee report back and next reading of the Bill.

“The standards support good quality urban design, contribute to the quality of life and overall social wellbeing of occupiers, and deliver positive environmental outcomes.

“We believe it’s possible to achieve quality medium density housing in thriving communities that people have a strong sense of ownership of”, says Councillor Darby.

To further address Auckland’s housing challenges, the council recommends that government addresses funding and financing issues to build the infrastructure needed to support the city’s growth. This is alongside tackling systemic issues in the building sector, including the cost and supply of building materials, labour shortages and construction sector capacity.

It’s also recommended that the government extends their large social housing programme and makes it easier for councils to implement inclusionary zoning policies to ensure developments include a proportion of new homes that meet affordability criteria.

Other changes Auckland Council is seeking include:  

  • excluding remote rural and coastal towns that can’t support intensification and have significant infrastructure constraints, such as Clarks Beach and Omaha 
  • better alignment with the council’s compact city approach – which supports strong vibrant communities by delivering more housing in places with good access to public transport and closer to jobs, services, and community facilities.
  • continuing with the existing Terrace Housing and Apartment and Mixed Housing Urban zones and standards that already allow more apartments and three-storey housing across urban Auckland 
  • changing the medium density design standards to achieve better green spaces, privacy, sunlight and setbacks from boundaries – all of which improve the quality of housing and living areas
  • establishing a working group with government, Tier one councils, industry groups and developers to improve design standards and ensure quality development in New Zealand
  • allowing councils to decide on recommendations of the independent hearings panel with matters to be heard by the Environment Court if challenged, rather than the Minister.

The Auckland Council submission is available for download here [PDF].

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