Auckland Supply and the Unitary Plan

In March the Auckland City Council released its draft Unitary plan as debate raged in the media over how to solve Auckland’s housing supply crisis. Auckland needs 400,000 new homes over the next 30 years and under the current district plan it is forecast we will only be able to create 300,000. Will the proposed plan solve this problem?

What are the proposed changes?

The plan aims to encourage greater density, mostly away from coastal areas and definitely closer to transport nodes. The main zones and the required net site areas are as per the table below.

May2013picture

Some key points on the zones:

  • 1 dwelling per 500s/m in the Single House zone.
  • Mixed Housing – a maximum of 4 dwellings can be built, e.g. four 300s/m sites with a dwelling on each. It may be possible to create 5 or more dwellings on a 1,200 s/m site, but a resource consent would be required and there are other development controls that will need to be satisfied.
  • Terraced housing. This zoning is not based on number of units per site. Rather it is based on development controls such as a maximum site coverage; a minimum floor area; maximum build height; minimum site width on the road front.

Check out these links for more information:
New zoning maps: http://acmaps.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/unitaryplan/FlexViewer/index.html
Zoning details: http://shapeauckland.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/factsheetresidentialcontrols.pdf

How will it change the face of Auckland?

Heading into this project the council knew they would need to come up with a way to control the look and feel of future developments in order to provide comfort that the changes will enhance and not compromise the face of Auckland. There have been developments in the past which council has learned its lesson from and acknowledges have compromised the aesthetics of Auckland. Understandably there is group that are concerned about what gets built.

To that end the changes come with a number of design controls and a separate design handbook is planned to accompany each new zone. For example there must be a minimum number of window facades on the road frontage side of the property, garages must not make up more than a maximum percentage of the front of the property, entrances must be at the front of the property, the front of the property must run parallel with the road front.

When will the changes happen?

Council is hoping to pass the changes into law by September 2013. In reality it will probably take longer as the plan needs to be approved by parliament and there is concern being voiced that the speed of the approval is too fast. Therefore we may not see the plan as law until well into next year or even beyond.

Will these changes solve the supply crisis?

For the extra potential supply to come on stream we need a few things to happen: developers need to be motivated to get going on the basis that they will get developments approved with reduced complexity’ consents in a timely fashion and they will derive a profit.

The new plan takes all the different zonings of the old councils and creates one unified plan. This creates simplicity and removes some of the hurdles developers face when working with a myriad of different rules. Perhaps this will motivate a new generation of developers. Many seasoned Auckland developers have either gone bankrupt or found new ‘jobs’.

But perhaps more importantly is the impact the new development and design controls will have. Like most things the devil is in the detail and we won’t get a full appreciation of how these controls will be enforced until the first few subdivision and building consents are processed.

Will developers see they can make a profit? Greater scale usually brings economies of scale. There are many 1,200 s/m sites around Auckland where current zonings allow for one additional property. These properties aren’t being subdivided in a hurry as the profits are slim given the subdivision and sitework costs. However, under the new mixed house zone it may be possible to now put an additional 3 dwellings on the site. That will mean the subdivision and sitework costs can now be spread over three dwellings. So perhaps these sites will become more enticing to developers.

E+O May News 2013

Published on Tuesday, May 14th, 2013, under Directors Market Commentary

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