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Auckland City, government agree to 3-year plan to fast-track city home building

Friday 10th May 2013

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Auckland City and the government have agreed a three-year plan to fast-track housing in New Zealand's most-populous city, with a target of 39,000 new homes by 2016.

The Auckland Housing Accord is aiming to alleviate housing pressures in Auckland after a survey found the city was "severely unaffordable", hurting household budgets, leading to overcrowding and a lower standard of living.

The plan requires legislation allowing the council and government to work together to identify special housing areas (SHAs) within the city's rural urban boundary including greenfield and brownfield sites. Within these will be qualifying developments of at least 50 dwellings to a maximum of six storeys.

SHAs will be discrete geographic areas, which will be formally declared by order in council on the recommendation of the Minister of Housing, according to a Q&A sheet on the plan. A bill enacting the accord will be introduced next Thursday as part of the budget.

The council will appoint independent panels to hear submissions and make decisions on applications for qualifying developments. Notifications will be limited to 20 working days for adjacent landowners with submissions limited to "matters of discretion identified in the council's notified Unitary Plan.

The panels must make decisions on greenfield sites within six months and three months for brownfield developments. That's down from three years and one year respectively now. Their decisions will be final.

The accord has aspirational targets of 9,000 homes in the first year, rising to 13,000 in year two and 17,000 in year three. That compares with an average 3,600 homes consented in each of the past four years.

"This balanced and pragmatic agreement addresses the economic risks to New Zealand's economy of an over-heated and supply constrained Auckland housing market. It is good news for Auckland families wanting access to more affordable houses to buy and rent," Housing Minister Nick Smith said.

The accord is described as an interim solution, pending reforms of the Resource Management Act and the council's unitary plan, which is expected to become operative in 2016.

Auckland property prices have hit record highs in a rapidly heating market characterised by low volumes of listings. The Reserve Bank this week cited increasing pressure in a housing market where supply is failing to meet demand as posing a growing risk to New Zealand's financial stability.

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