Auckland Council is ratcheting up its opposition to Labour and National’s radical plans for greater intensification with the release of diagrams showing the visual impact on the city.
The plans have been described as “Soviet-style” blocks by one local politician and brought a warning from Mayor Phil Goff that they will create slums in poorer suburbs.
Housing Minister Megan Woods has responded to the criticism by accusing the council of scaremongering by putting out misleading and inaccurate information.
She has also released her own officials’ diagrams of what is proposed to counter the council material.
In a rare show of unity, Woods and National Party leader Judith Collins last month announced the two parties are rushing a bill through Parliament before Christmas to allow greater intensification in the main cities from August next year.
The bill will let developers build up to three homes of up to three storeys as of right without the need for a resource consent and neighbours having a say.
The two main parties said the Housing Supply Bill will help address the housing crisis and result in at least 48,200 and as many as 105,500 new homes being built in the next five to eight years.
The bill is part of a National Policy Statement on Urban Design (NPS-UD) released last year mandating six-storey apartment blocks close to urban centres in the main cities of Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington and Christchurch.
Council planners have drawn diagrams comparing Labour and National’s medium density residential standards (MDRS) with the mixed housing urban zone in the Auckland Unitary Plan, which allows for three-storey homes.
The MDRS will also apply in Auckland’s single storey and mixed housing suburban zones, which generally allow for one or two-storey standalone homes.
The diagrams compare the outdoor space and outlook, building separation and the street view between the MDRS and the mixed housing urban zone.
They paint a picture of boxy housing blocks with little outdoor space 1m from the boundary and a 2m gap between bedrooms on different properties. Developers can build up to two storeys, or 11m, just 1m from the boundary and do not have to provide parking.
A senior council planner, John Duguid, said the focus of both Labour and National is really about bulk and location, not architecture and design.
He said the implications are contrary to achieving a quality compact city and make it more difficult to provide transport, water and community infrastructure.
What’s more, Duguid said, it will lead to people living in medium-density areas that may never have good access to public transport and community infrastructure.
Woods said the diagrams did not accurately depict what is enabled under the new rules, saying one showed at least 64 units which would require 21 sites to go ahead without the need for a resource consent.
“Only 50 per cent of the site can be used (for building) without a resource consent, and the diagrams aren’t depicting that,” she said.
Furthermore, she said, because parking is no longer needed, this should be shown on both the MDRS and MHU images, not just the MHU images; and some of the MHU diagrams have unusual shapes that demonstrate the zone is less enabling of good intensification.
Woods released two diagrams of potential development outcomes on a 416sq m section showing three homes each of 95sq m and 82sq covering about 25 per cent of the land with large backyards.
Under the rules, the maximum building coverage is 50 per cent.
Woods said she is not going to sit by and let the status quo that has delivered the housing crisis run its course, saying the Auckland Unitary Plan is not delivering the kind of density required in Auckland.
In a media statement issued yesterday, Woods said Auckland has an estimated housing shortage of more than 25,000 homes.
When asked if the 20,000 building consents issued by the council under the Unitary Plan in the past year showed the council is quickly addressing the housing shortage, Woods said “that magic hasn’t happened over a succession of decades”.
“We want to address many fundamentals if we want to continue to see that we can have that volume of housing delivered,” said Woods, adding there are pockets of density in Auckland but not enough to address the housing crisis.
Goff opposes the plans of his former Labour colleagues and their National Party allies, who between them have failed to stop house prices sky-rocketing and fix the housing shortage over the past decade.
He said the city needs greater intensification, but it needs to be of an acceptable quality and design and not create slums of the future.
There are good developers doing a fantastic job, said Goff, who worries about putting “3 x 3” homes on a section in the outer southern and western suburbs with no parking on site, higher parking charges on the road and poor public transport.
He said cowboy developers are already putting up shoddy developments in lower-income areas of the city.
Industry experts are warning first-time developers are cutting corners on new homes in Auckland and “cowboys” are using inferior materials to maximise profits.
Woods said councils already have urban design policies and objectives to encourage high quality design and these can continue to apply.
Goff said he is not worried about Nimby issues in suburbs like Ponsonby – where one developer is advertising apartments costing $10 million – but the kind of housing that will go up in lower-income suburbs.
Orakei Local Board chairman Scott Milne said Labour and National’s policy would lead to “Soviet-style blocks” and the uglification of Auckland.
Council research into the projected supply and demand for housing over the next 30 years found the Unitary Plan has a vast amount of capacity for 900,000 homes, of which 650,000 are commercially viable.
In the past year, the council has issued a record number of 20,000 building consents, of which 77 per cent are for multi-unit homes.
The research found the Government’s plans for more intensification across the city will help on the supply side but only have a small impact on affordability for medium and low-income Aucklanders. Other interventions will be needed to improve affordability, the researchers said.
National’s housing spokeswoman Nicola Willis said the plans in the Housing Enabling Bill are not a silver bullet but will cut red tape and increase greater housing choices, including townhouses, apartments and granny flats.
She said these are the types of housing sought by first-home buyers and retirees, adding National wanted to see a range of housing, from traditional houses on large sections through to modern apartments.
On affordability, Willis said removing barriers to the supply of housing will have a positive effect over time – “it’s basic economics”.
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