The Auckland Council has a flurry of activity lined up to start progress toward achieving a targeted 39,000 new homes for the Auckland region over a three-year period.
By the end of this month the council plans to have the first "special housing areas" identified that will be targeted for development, while a Housing Project Office is planned to be operational by October 1.
Housing Minister Nick Smith said this week he was looking to get "sufficient special housing areas approved for at least an additional 5,000 homes by Christmas".
But first the council needs to set the ball rolling.
The council's governing body - essentially the full council - is meeting on Tuesday with two big ticket items to consider.
It is seeking to approve the Auckland Housing Accord and also to notify the Auckland Unitary Plan.
Too long to wait
With Auckland having a perceived shortage of 30,000 homes, three years was seen as too long to wait for the making available of land for developments.
The intention of the accord is to, as an interim measure, allow the freeing up of land, through creation of the so-called "special housing areas" and fast-tracking of housing developments, hence the target of 39,000 new homes.
The Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Bill was introduced into Parliament on Budget day, May 16 and having been rushed through, was passed this week.
A contentious issue in the legislation was the fact that it allowed the Government to "over-ride" councils and both designate special housing areas and fast-track developments itself if it either could not reach agreement with a local authority on a housing accord or terminated such an accord.
The Auckland Council had opposed the Government having this power, but the "over-ride" provision has been retained in the final legislation. The concession made is that housing accords will now have a "dispute resolution" process written into them.
Another concession is that the legislation as amended now contains provisions for the special housing areas to contain agreed percentages of affordable housing.
The council has not issued any media statements since the legislation was passed. But to this point there's no indication of any planned opposition to approving the housing accord on Tuesday.
Local Government New Zealand, the body that represents local authorities, had opposed the over-ride provisions.
'You can't have a partnership'
President Lawrence Yule said the retention of the provisions in the final legislation was “really our only issue of any significance" with the new law in its final shape.
He said the introduction of a dispute resolution process was “an addition which we welcome”.
However, "...our view still remains that you can’t have a partnership when effectively one partner has an over-ride provision to do what they want if they don’t agree with the outcome before that".
“The Government would argue of course that what’s important to the economy is more important than a partnership and they’ve seen fit to keep the over-ride provision in.
“...But as a principle of democracy we don’t support it.”
Auckland's the only area currently covered by the legislation as it is has been designated as having a housing supply issue.
Other regions to follow
However, it is likely to be joined in short order by other regions, with many other parts of the country also meeting the technical housing shortage criteria as recognised by the act.
So, assuming the Auckland Council does give the sign-off to the accord, it will be full speed ahead toward freeing up land for new developments.
Here is the council's proposed framework for getting work under way. SHA stands for special housing area :
- 10 September. Governing Body receives advice on Housing Accord and HASHA legislation and potentially ratifies the Auckland Housing Accord
- 10 September. Governing Body meeting: endorsement of SHA criteria
- Mid–late September. Auckland Plan Committee receives advice and provides direction on first tranche of SHAs.
- Late September. Auckland Unitary Plan notified. Governing Body endorses first tranche of SHAs / Council recommendations communicated to Minister of Housing
- Early October. First tranche of SHAs formally established by order-in-council and communicated to affected parties
- Early October. Council fully ready to implement SHAs and able to communicate clearly all requirements and processes to interested or affected parties
- Mid October. Council meets with land owners / developers and initiates process to receive first Qualifying Development applications
- Late October. Council completes analysis of second tranche options.
- Late November. Council recommends second tranche of SHAs
- March 2014. Third tranche of SHAs established.
The planned Housing Project Office (HPO) is intended to integrate all the council's "housing policy and delivery functions".
This will include undertaking consenting and approvals for qualifying developments within the special housing areas.
The council says it is intended that the HPO have dedicated resource including resources from Auckland Transport and Watercare Services Ltd.
"This will ensure that challenging statutory timetables can be met. Subject to Council’s approval of the Accord, the HPO can be operational by 1 October 2013."
The council hasn't as yet publicly indicated exactly the areas likely to be recommended for fast-track development.
The initial announcement about the housing accord in May made reference to the "significant developments" in train at Tāmaki, Hobsonville, Papakura and Weymouth and across Housing New Zealand’s Auckland housing stock.
Who will do it?
The moot point that will remain is who will undertake all the developments and can the 39,000 in three years target be achieved.
Auckland did achieve 12,000 new houses in a year briefly in the early 2000s, but the figure's averaged closer to 4000 a year in recent years and the long running (20-year) average is only 7400 a year.
The other potential snag in ramping up development in Auckland is that the rebuilding of Christchurch means there will be huge competition for labour and resources.