Let’s revisit what the NZ Initiative said about housing in November 2015

The NZ Initiative hits the nail on the head. This is what needs to be done to fix Auckland’s problems.

It was back in November 2015 but it bears repeating.

Our own research leaves no doubt that planning rules are a root cause of the housing crisis, particularly in Auckland but not only there.

The situation is made worse by the way new infrastructure is financed. Councils, which regularly cop a lot of the blame, are operating under planning and finance rules that are simply not conducive to residential development. They have no financial incentive to promote it – quite the reverse is true.

We believe this view is more widely shared across the political spectrum than first meets the eye. But although politicians have been blaming planning rules for the high cost of housing for a decade now we are still waiting for genuine policy changes that are needed to restore New Zealand’s housing affordability.

Because this is a national housing crisis that has grown over decades and under governments of different hues, playing political blame games is pointless. You cannot solve problems in retrospect. We need to face the facts and work together for real reform.

We believe any attempts to reform the Resource Management Act (RMA) must protect the act’s environmental principles.

However, this should not stop us from changing the way councils regulate residential development under the RMA.

In our view, there are three issues to be addressed.  

First, urban growth boundaries driving up section costs. Second, anti-density restrictions stopping affordable housing. Third, the expensive and inefficient way we fund infrastructure.

Let’s go through these one by one.

When you consider that land inside Auckland’s urban boundary now costs around 10 times more than land outside, it is hard to dispute that the city’s urban growth boundary has driven up land prices.

In essence, the boundary around the city has created an artificial scarcity of land. It is an open invitation to land bankers to speculate on rising prices.

It is also discouraging developers from building affordable homes. It makes no business sense to build affordable homes on expensive land.

And while Auckland cannot grow out, it is also prevented from growing up or growing denser.

Restrictions on density and height are yet another way to choke off the supply of affordable housing.

More density allows you to build more affordable homes in places people want to live.

Allowing smaller plots of land and consequently more people per hectare helps. It is not a prescription for entire cities, but markets should be allowed to provide different kinds of housing for which there is demand.

Some people are fearful density means the kinds of high rise slums you see in Hobson St.

It need not be this way. There are plenty of examples of density done well, you only need to look at the buildings designed by Mark Todd’s Ockham Residential.

The trick is to require good urban design and plenty of open space. Even three- to four-storey buildings can provide higher density. There is no need to go high rise.

I actually hope that Labour, National the Greens and NZ First can all get together and work in a bipartisan manner to resolve this issue. But I doubt it can happen.

The other issue is whether changes to the RMA are mirrored with amendments to the Local Government Act. Auckland Council is already trying to shaft moves to expand the city through LGA enabled infrastructure strategies.

In short – you can take away the city limits – but if you don’t make Councils deliver and prioritise infrastructure in a timely manner – then they won’t.


– NZ Herald

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.