1 May 2024

Christchurch councillors vote to delay housing intensification decisions

7:09 pm on 1 May 2024
Christchurch based housing

Christchurch City Council was granted a government extension to figure out what intensification would look like in residential areas. (file image) Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

Christchurch city councillors have voted to delay substantive decisions on housing intensification in residential areas until end of next year.

The council has been consulting on a plan change allowing for greater housing density in many major suburbs.

The former Labour government's national residential density standards required councils to permit three homes of up to three storeys per section across many parts of the city without resource consent.

The rules were adopted in Auckland and Wellington, but Christchurch councillors voted against the plan in 2022.

Christchurch City Council has a deadline of 12 September this year to allow for greater heights and densities in and around the city centre and in commercial centres.

But, last month it was granted a government extension, to December 2025, to figure out what intensification would look like in residential areas.

At a meeting on Wednesday, councillors agreed they wanted to use that extra time, rather than making decisions on housing density plans for the whole city in September.

Councillor Mark Peters said it made sense.

"This is a huge decision for our city, this decision to either go forward breakneck speed and do everything all at once in September is risky, and I've always said that we need to do, in doing any intensification, be able to do it on our terms as Christchurch rather than having what's been forced on us by the government, their terms," he said.

"If we let the genie out of the bottle and the city starts developing inappropriately in the outer suburbs piecemeal, you're not going to be able to put that cap back on the genie later."

This was echoed by councillor Victoria Henstock.

"There are many people that are feeling rushed by this and felt that this was imposed on them and they're overwhelmed by it," she said.

"We have an opportunity here through this process to just slow it down a bit, and do it properly and a bit more thoughtfully. I think we'd be mad not to do that."

However, councillor Andrei Moore was one of several councillors who did not think delaying the wider decisions on housing intensification in the city was a good idea.

"Young people want to move to Christchurch because of housing costs but that success will be short lived because how our council is responding right now, when there is a shortage of housing around the university, our response is 'let's resist making it more affordable to build housing around the university'," he said.

"We hum and we haw, we're three years into a process we're saying 'we can't possibly make a decision we need to spend another year on it', meanwhile more and more people end up in emergency accommodation, housing still continues to get more unaffordable."

Public hearings on the plan change were held throughout October and November 2023, and between 15 and 24 April 2024.

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