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Housing the many while confronting the few

May 03, 2013

Auckland has a housing supply and affordability crisis across all types of property. It will continue to worsen unless steps are taken now towards providing new homes for an extra one million people over the next 30 years. Auckland Council is attempting to tackle the issue, firstly through the strategies in the Auckland Plan and through its new Unitary Plan. Cranleigh director and well known commentator on property and urban issues Martin Udale looks at why we need a robust discussion around the Unitary Plan.

The Unitary Plan is a key mechanism enabling new housing to be developed for a bigger population. By 2040, the council expects the development sector to deliver 400,000 new dwellings. Of these, around 260,000 will need to be built within Auckland’s existing urban area as defined by the 2010 Metropolitan Urban Limit (MUL) of 57,780 hectares. About 220,000 of these homes are expected be built on infill and brownfield land across the city.

This presents both a challenge and an opportunity. A fit-for-purpose Unitary Plan will play a major part in encouraging varied housing stock in a compact city and go a long way towards Auckland Council’s ambition of becoming the world’s most liveable City.

The plan must make it easy to deliver more and better homes, affordably and at pace.

What will be needed is an attitude and behaviour change from our political leaders, and we in the wider community, regarding housing expectations and approaches. Without a change of attitude, our ambition will be stymied before we even leave the starting gates.

Prevailing attitudes, particularly from those who subscribe to the “Not in My Backyard” (NIMBY) philosophy, have done much to make housing a scarce resource, to be leveraged by lucky owners who then actively seek to keep others from joining their circle.

We have all been complicit in creating the policy framework and attitudes which have produced today’s housing stress. Bad housing consequences have been created through bad legislation and regulation.

If we are to grow our housing stock, a robust debate around housing of all types in all locations needs to move beyond the NIMBY, green and heritage brigades. The political conundrum will be to convince the broader community that intensification can be achieved in a way that enhances the City, improves housing opportunities for many, and addresses valid environmental and heritage concerns. All of these are vital to “liveability”.

The challenge for the politicians is to show the leadership we expect of them, so that meaningful discussion brings forward meaningful outcomes. The debate needs to focus on how to produce 220,000 new homes, which will need to be delivered through infill and brownfield development. It is likely these will largely comprise attached and terraced housing and low rise apartments throughout much of Auckland’s current urban area.

Putting in place an effective and appropriate Unitary Plan will have a significant impact on how the City develops and where we house the talented people that New Zealand needs to grow and prosper in the future.


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