10 Mar 2015

Auckland housing density challenged

5:35 am on 10 March 2015

The Auckland Council's new chief economist has revived one of the city's hottest debates, arguing that proposed housing density rules in the inner suburbs may not be high enough.

Housing in Auckland

Housing in Auckland Photo: AFP

Councillors watered down some intensification rules in its proposed Unitary Plan after fierce opposition from some communities, and the issue is now before an Independent Hearings Panel.

Chief economist Chris Parker said the proposed rules had not consistently delivered the higher densities near the city centre, which the market seemed to be signalling.

Mr Parker's role was to be an independent voice for matters important to the region, but he had chosen one of the hottest political potatoes in his quarterly commentary.

He qualified the remarks by saying they did not necessarily reflect what the council's evidence may be to a proposed Unitary Plan hearings this year.

He argued that higher density in the inner suburbs would help ease the housing shortage and rising land prices.

Councillors late in 2013 removed some of the highest density provisions from the proposed plan, and reduced some height limits in suburban areas, which had been proposed by council planners.

Mr Parker's views were in line with those of some other economists, the governor of the Reserve Bank, and the Government, which is arguing in the Unitary Plan process for higher density.