20 Oct 2021

More than just RMA issues holding back building, Auckland councillor says

8:37 am on 20 October 2021

Skill shortages, limited infrastructure, and rampant material costs are stopping houses being built and an incoming law change won't fix that, according to Auckland councillor Chris Darby.

Chris Darby at a Council meeting about the Unitary Plan. 10 August 2016.

Auckland councillor Chris Darby. Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

Darby, the council's planning committee chairperson, said the government's new intensification policy does not address immediate problems.

With the support of National, the government is to make councils adopt intensification of cities and let them rezone more greenfield land.

Darby said zoning regulations are not the thing holding Auckland back from building more.

"The significant constraint right now in Auckland is in the area of infrastructure funding ... the second area is the major shortage in skills and labour, to support the actual construction. And the third area is the skyrocketing price of materials," he said.

Darby said these are the immediate problems in Auckland. And all of them, he said, would improve with solid government intervention.

Research released today from The Royal Society Te Apārangi states the housing situation in New Zealand is at a critical level.

One of the authors, distinguished professor of public health Philippa Howden-Chapman, said it is high time for more political bipartisanship on housing, which has to be a core focus.

"The government needs to be involved in building affordable housing, and that it doesn't become a political football, and saying 'the market can do it better'. We know the market doesn't build affordable housing."

The report outlined how rental homes are more often damp, cold and overcrowded, which contributes to tens of thousands of children being hospitalised a year from things like rheumatic fever.

And the psychological effects of expensive or insecure housing have effects far broader than just in the home.

a University of Auckland lecturer in social psychology, Shiloh Groot, said there are widespread, harmful human effects of a failing housing market.

"So you have parents who are suicidal because they can't meet living costs; they're having to make decisions between feeding their children or paying their rent.

"Increasingly home ownership is just not a reality for so many New Zealanders, so people are working longer and harder, which means family life suffers, romantic life suffers, social life suffers, your personal life suffers."

The government released modelling which estimated at least 28,000 extra homes could be built in Auckland by 2030 under the new medium density rules.

Darby, however, described the intensification policy as "prescriptive".

He said it might result in more houses over time but not necessarily good ones.

"There is very little here outside of yield and quantity that gives me confidence that the outcomes are going to be quality, durable outcomes that Aucklanders expect to see on their streets."

Wider housing regulations under the National Policy Statement for Urban Development will also be brought forward by a year to August 2023.

The changes are supported by the Opposition, which the government says gives councils, developers and homeowners confidence that policy won't suddenly be reversed.

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