The Great Intensification – Greater Auckland

The government shocked everyone yesterday as Housing Minister Megan Woods and Environment Minister David Parker held a joint press conference in the Hive Theater with Opposition Leader Judith Collins and the Door – opposition speech for Nicola Willis housing.

The only thing more surprising was what they were actually announcing: New Zealand abolishes single-family zoning.

It is unequivocally fantastic. The government’s housing program, while good in many ways, has been plagued by a big hole that this reform will go a long way to filling.

Building on the NPS-UD, the government will force councils to allow people to build as of right up to three houses with a maximum of three stories at most sites in Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington and Christchurch. This is similar to the rules we currently have in Auckland in the Urban Mixed Housing Area (MHU) – our second most densely populated residential area, which accounts for around a fifth of our residential area.

Cohaus. a cohabitation development in Gray Lynn

In fact, the government’s proposed rules (called Medium Density Residential Standards, or MDRS) go even further with reduced recession plans. The current rules under MHU mean that you cannot build up to the 3 story height limit in parts of the site within 8 meters of the limit, while the updated rules mean that the restriction does not apply. applies only about 2.8 meters.

As I wrote earlier, these differences can be more dramatic than you might think: for a typical Auckland suburban site, this would represent a 50% increase in the number of dwellings, and it could be the difference between a viable project or not. Having fewer restrictions per lot also means that more developments can take place without a merger (combining adjacent lots into one larger lot), which is extremely important in producing fine-grained town planning that makes a neighborhood more human.

The real plus is that this means that all Auckland’s THAB zoned areas will be overzoned. This represents 92% of Auckland’s residential area. PWC estimates that this could mean up to 50,000 additional homes in Auckland over the next 5 years.

Comparison of New Zealand Average Density Rule Sets

Overzoning everywhere is important because it not only increases capacity, but also increases choice. This means that an older couple who are trying to downsize are not forced to leave their neighborhood. This means that students and families do not bid against each other for accommodation that does not actually meet any of their needs.

Having minimum density everywhere is also important to support investments in things like transportation, stores, schools, parks. This ensures that the basic needs of people are met in their neighborhood while still being able to access things like a great job market that a big city offers.

This updated NPS-UD package also advances the schedule and attempts to address the issue that has plagued the NPS since its inception: advice that ignores the entire project. At each turn, the Auckland Council has taken the document’s literal interpretation to undermine or dodge its clear intentions. As a result, the government has produced a new Streamlined Intensification Planning Process (ISPP). Auckland council will notify its intensification plan in August 2022, before it goes to an independent committee to make recommendations. Council is allowed to disagree with these recommendations, but if they do, it is taken away from them and the Minister of the Environment makes the final appeal in August 2023.

The council’s response

Everywhere, medium density is an opportunity to massively improve the design of our buildings, our quality of life and the way in which our buildings contribute to the vitality of the city. The MRDS propose a set of minima that the Unit Plan must at least implement, but that does not mean that the council must simply stop there. The recent infill and townhouse boom meant homes were more plentiful and affordable than they otherwise would have been, but it also led to (fixable) issues.


A modern interpretation of the three floors without elevator characteristic of Montreal

While Wellington City Council has taken an aggressive approach to allow more than six storeys of development around its city center, it has also voted in favor of applying universal design principles to the new housing stock. A similar approach here would be more than welcome, as many 3-story elevator-less apartments don’t even provide ramps on the ground floor, let alone elevators to access those above. The choice of housing may not be simply the choice of housing for some, especially since medium density typologies are most often useful for the elderly who do not need a lot of floor space, and do not need much floor space. can often no longer drive legally, and therefore have to live closer to public transport and shops.

Beauty and design

Brooksfields Row Houses in Christchurch

Beauty matters, but beauty is a luxury. In a buyer’s market, this is a priority because people want to live in beautiful places. In a seller’s market, it is ignored because developers can mass produce ugliness for a quick buck. The problem is, in order to get from where we are today (a sellers’ market) to where we want and need to be (a buyer’s market), we have to mass produce housing.

People can often agree on aesthetics, but beauty doesn’t conform to a well-defined set of rules. We could theoretically rely on panels of architects and town planners to make aesthetic judgments on a case-by-case basis, but they would quickly drown under the volume needed to get us out of the housing shortage, while adding a lot of money. uncertainty that discourage development as soon as we need it.

Therefore, we need to take a harm reduction approach while buyers are able to take back control of the housing market. The easiest way to do this? Street trees.

Brutal streetscape animated by the slightest touch of flora


The Council must ensure that as we see our population grow, our infrastructure is maintained. There is no reason that 100% of the growth in additional population trips should not come from public and active modes, and in fact we should expect it to be greater than 100% because population density widespread use makes public transport faster and more frequent. more viable services.

Reallocating roads can deliver this in a way that does not weigh heavily on taxpayers, but requires the political trust necessary to implement programs such as connected communities. AT should be bold and seek to use the NPS as a mandate to get these necessary changes down the line.

Since we can expect many neighborhoods adjacent to public transport to be redeveloped, we should also actively seek reconstruction opportunities with public pedestrian connections to bus stops, especially where streets are not arranged. according to a traditional grid.

Distances to the nearest bus stop on a cul-de-sac in Royal Oak

How will these changes affect your community and what could the board do to make these changes the best they can be?

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