Developers are "keen to get on the starting blocks" and begin building Auckland's targeted 39,000 homes in the next three years, the city's deputy mayor Penny Hulse says.
Hulse told Radio New Zealand that she was expecting the Auckland Housing Accord agreed with the Government would now be approved by the council, along with the formal notification of the new Auckland Unitary Plan. (The council has now approved both the Unitary Plan and the accord. See lower down this article for details)
But while Hulse is now taking a very conciliatory tone, a few months back she suggested that the council might not sign the accord if the Government did not remove "over-ride" powers from the legislation enabling it under certain circumstances to take charge of fast-tracking housing developments itself.
The "over-ride" provisions were not removed - but the Government has made a slight concession by inserting provisions that make for inclusion in the accord of a "dispute resolution" process.
Smith has 'softened stance'
Hulse said that Housing Minister Nick Smith “seems to have softened his stance and certainly seems to understand how Auckland works a little bit more clearly than he did a few months ago”.
It was clear that opening up rural land further and further out was “not the way to go” Hulse said.
She said that under the terms of the accord the council would not now be opening up more land for development than it had intended.
“I’m very comfortable that we haven’t started to bleed out into the countryside.”
She said the mediation provisions now included in the legislation make “a lot more sense” and while the over-ride provisions were "still there as a backstop" the council had "assurances" that they would not be employed.
Over-ride provisions 'superfluous'
"My hope would be that we would have that eventually removed altogether. It seems somewhat superfluous.”
The legislation makes clear that the accord targets - the number of houses to be achieved - will be regularly reviewed.
There is widespread disbelief in the community that Auckland will manage the 39,000 in three years target. But on the question of what happens if the targets are not achieved, Hulse said the Government had realised the council was not responsible wholly for those targets being achieved.
"We are the enabler making the rules easier, making the rules clearer and working actively and proactively with developers – but the final decision is with those developers and those landowners to get on with the building and making things happen and the targets are there as a guideline.
"They [the targets] certainly will keep the pressure on council and developers.
"But is there something the government can do to get those houses actually physically out of the ground short of building them themselves? We have to wait and see."
'A lot of chest beating'
Hulse said there had been “quite a lot of chest beating" around the targets, “probably more by the Government than the council”. But she said she was not concerned about meeting the targets.
“That was exactly the debate around the over-ride; that if the targets were missed, Government would step in. We quietly said, ‘well, step in to do what?’ and there was kind of a deafening silence, so the reality is the relationship is now much warmer with Government. They realise that we are doing everything humanly possible to make it easier for those houses to be built. But it is now Government, developer, council and community that need to join together to make them happen."
Hulse said the council had "some excellent developers who are very keen to get out of the starting blocks as soon as things are notified".
“So the first couple of years, that’s going to be the key. That’s when we really get a/ the plan proven that it works appropriately and b/ we get the trust in the community that those good developments are happening and then I think we will be away."
Going through hoops
Hulse said while the new developments were going to be fast-tracked, they would still have to "go through a lot of hoops”.
Another concession made in the legislation was the inclusion that new developments would have to include a portion of affordable housing.
“Without that there’s no reason for us to fast-track the process,” Hulse said.
Developments would include “some greenfields and some brownfields”, but Hulse was not for saying whereabouts in Auckland they might be.
The council had yet to decide, she said.
Accord and Plan approved
Auckland's Mayor Len Brown, subsequent to the Hulse interview, announced that both the Unitary Plan and the accord had been agreed by the council. A council fact sheet can be viewed here.
Here is the full Len Brown statement:
Auckland Council’s agreement today on a proposed Unitary Plan clears the way for immediate action on Auckland’s housing affordability challenge, says Auckland Mayor Len Brown.
“With a proposed Unitary Plan in place, we can now get on with the actions agreed in the Housing Accord – unlocking new land for development and fast-tracking the build of more affordable homes in Auckland,” says Len Brown.
The Auckland Housing Accord, an agreement between the government and council, provides for streamlined consenting of up to 39,000 new homes or sections in Auckland over the next three years, but relies on a notified Unitary Plan to have effect.
Following today’s decision to notify a proposed Unitary Plan:
- Auckland Council will be ready to receive applications for ‘streamlined’ consent of housing developments in Special Housing Areas from 1 October
- The rules of the notified Unitary Plan will apply to all new developments approved under the Housing Accord for the next three years
- All developments will include requirements for affordable housing, to be set by Auckland Council and backed by the new Housing Accords legislation
Len Brown says the version of the Unitary Plan agreed by the council will ensure a balanced approach to new developments approved under the Housing Accord over the next three years.
“This plan, supported by the Housing Accord, will enable us to immediately unlock the current MUL, increasing the supply of land for new homes. But it also means we can move more quickly to increase options available within urban Auckland – whether it’s apartments, terraced houses or stand-alone homes.”
“I’m pleased that councillors have swung in behind this effort and backed the accord. It’s right that we work together with the government to address housing affordability challenges now, before we have a fully operative Unitary Plan in three years time.”
- Publish criteria for Special Housing Areas – mid September
- Establish the Auckland Council Housing Project Office – to implement the Housing Accord and oversee the streamlined consenting process – late September and ongoing
- Identify the first Special Housing Areas (SHAs) - including requirements and criteria for the provision of affordable housing – late September
- Receive first applications for new developments in SHAs – 1 October
- The Auckland Housing Accord is an agreement between Auckland Council and central government to support increased housing supply and affordability in Auckland
- Gives Auckland Council access to powers under the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Act (HASHA) to streamline resource consent and plan changes in Special Housing Areas (SHAs)
- HASHA enables the Council to set affordability criteria and requirements within new developments
- SHAs will be a mixture of undeveloped urban and rural land within Auckland’s new Rural Urban Boundary (RUB) that will be subject to the new streamlined consenting process.
- All applications will be considered under the rules of the proposed Unitary Plan
Nick Smith hailed Auckland Council's action in the following statement:
Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith today welcomed Auckland Council’s unanimous support for the Auckland Housing Accord to urgently increase the supply and affordability of housing in Auckland.
“Today’s adoption of the Accord and notification of the draft Unitary Plan by Auckland Council maintains the momentum for our housing supply reforms,” Dr Smith says.
“Last Thursday the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Act was passed and comes into effect next Monday. The next step will be to identify the first batch of Special Housing Areas that will contribute to the 39,000 extra homes provided for under the Accord over the next three years. My ambition is to provide sufficient Special Housing Areas by Christmas to accommodate an additional 5,000 homes.”
The Accord will see low-rise greenfield developments of more than 50 dwellings within Special Housing Areas consented within six months as compared to the current average of three years; and three months for brownfield developments as compared to the current average of one year.
“The Accord will ramp up Auckland’s new build rate from the average of 3,600 a year to 9,000 homes next year, 13,000 in 2015, and 17,000 in 2016,” Dr Smith says.
“It’s up to Auckland where it wants to grow. What this Accord does is support them to get some momentum around building the least contentious 39,000 of the 400,000 homes identified in the draft Unitary Plan that Auckland needs to keep up with population growth over the next 30 years.
“The Accord will remain in place for three years and is an interim measure until Auckland’s Unitary Plan becomes fully operative. This Accord and new law are just part of the Government’s housing reform programme. The Government is taking action on reforming the Resource Management Act, reigning in council development charges, scrutinising building material costs, reducing compliance costs, improving productivity in the building and construction sector, and expanding the Welcome Home Loan and KiwiSaver First Home Deposit Subsidy to support first home buyers.
“I commend the Mayor and Council on the work that has gone in to the Accord and Unitary Plan. The steps taken today are essential if we are to make progress on increasing housing supply and to cool the overheated Auckland housing market.”