Auckland Council’s Auckland development committee got itself bogged down in a confidential debate on the next tranche of special housing areas on Thursday, and ended up deferring 2 important items on its agenda.
One was to reaffirm what should have happened long ago, to make provision of business land for growth a priority.
The other was to dismantle the council’s housing strategic action plan. This plan was created to advance a better framework enabling more housing to be built, but was superseded by the September 2013 housing accord between the council & Housing Minister Nick Smith.
Because of the housing accord, the development committee was going to endorse stage 1 as completed and agree not to proceed with stage 2 because of agreements & actions under the accord.
These agenda items are not simply matters to be ticked off, on to the next, but are important to council policy enabling economic activity to occur.
The council is an overall policy writer. Implementation of those policies may be done by insiders (council staff writing strategies to enable economic activity) or by outsiders (developers taking up rezoned land to establish businesses or subdivide for housing).
But the overall policy is still needed. The housing accord is a short-term measure to lift house construction beyond the level the economic upcycle was already going to take it to, largely for political purposes. For those political reasons, nonsensical targets were set for the first 3 years – 39,000 building consents for the first years out of a recession, when 13,000/year is the target to accommodate a population increase of one million spread over the whole 30-year plan period.
The primary accord response, through applications to the council’s housing project office, has been to subdivide greenfields – or to get approval for that, followed by repricing of the land – making it harder for the council to advance its compact city concept, although apartment consents have coincidentally increased.
Greenfields subdivision is undoubtedly cheaper for the developer, but not necessarily for the homebuyer or the council & ratepayer – the overall cost, including access to jobs & amenities, depends on infrastructure. And neither the council nor the Government has advanced a solution to funding of infrastructure to meet housing accord decisions.
In fact, the Government has gone out of its way to make funding of some infrastructure harder, through the Local Government Act Amendment Act (No 3), which came into force on 8 August and changes the development contributions regime.
Post-election, and post-housing accord, Auckland Council will need a stable policy and a strategy to ensure adequate land is available in the right places – serviced, and therefore part of a structure, not just available willy-nilly – for both business & housing (and also for amenity, such as parks, though this is often an afterthought).
Without that policy & strategy the council will be dysfunctional, right down to provision of appropriate consenting processes. Business needs the council to have a land availability programme so businesses can plan ahead, and the council needs a long-term zoning strategy (some of which will come when the unitary plan is finalised) to enable housing demand to be met.
Both these agenda items have been deferred to the development committee’s September meeting. The development committee needs to make stronger decisions about business land than those that came up from its economic development committee, which merely acknowledged it should be a priority, and it needs to get housing policy back on track for the long term, not just the 2 more years of the accord.
2 July 2014: Report indicates acute shortage of industrial land likely, but key land advocates don’t press for specific measures
30 June 2014: Report says business land supply “at best” meets 5-year demand
Links, development committee 14 August 2014 agenda items:
13 Industrial business land, recommendations from 1 July economic development committee meeting, to agree that business land is a critical consideration of the spatial priorities work the council is advancing, and that new areas of business land growth are prioritised in any future land release programme outlined by the council
14 Housing strategic action plan, stage 1 update & next stage, recommendations to endorse the completion of stage 1 and agree not to proceed with the original stage 2 as this has been superseded by agreements & actions being undertaken under the Auckland housing accord
Attribution: Council committee meeting, agenda, comment.