Affordable Housing, Better Infrastructure And Character Unitary Plan Priorities

Mayoral candidate Mark Thomas says the Unitary Plan may struggle to deliver the affordable housing the region needs, quickly enough.

“We urgently need new housing, but that is not all the plan needs to deliver. He agrees with the Property Institute that the Recommended plan lacks balance. This new housing must be affordable, it needs to be well designed and as Aucklanders know only too well it has to be linked to fixing our infrastructure deficit.”

“I urged councillors to reject those parts of the plan that won’t deliver affordable housing more quickly and which lack balance. The ‘easy option’ is to return to the consulted notified plan option or council’s most recently agreed position at Panel mediation.”

“Council’s proposed plan also targeted 10% affordable housing being provided in developments greater than 15 units. However the Panel rejected this on the back of submissions from, among others, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. Yet this approach is comparable to what the Government has done with own affordable housing developments in Hobsonville and Weymouth. It was designed to fix a current ‘market failure.”

“I believe councillors should have rejected the Panel’s affordability recommendations and return to that proposed by council.

“A further problem is the Panel rejecting the principle that infrastructure provision/funding should be linked to land use planning. We see the problems caused by this approach all around Auckland.”

“The infrastructure planning recommendations of the Panel need a better alternative so we can plan for new housing that delivers better coordinated transport and other infrastructure.”

“I also believe the Panel’s decision to abandon the pre-1944 building demolition control overlay is wrong although understandable. Council did not do an adequate job researching this issue and confused its argument by attempting to change the definition of special character to historic character.”

“The big gains Auckland needs to make in affordable housing will not be made anytime soon in the pre-1944 areas and so I support rejecting this recommendation with the new council committing to a properly resourced exercise to confirm what pre-1944 housing stock meets the special character threshold.”

Thomas said the ‘heroic” Panel house building targets of 18,000 per year have no prospect of being achieved without massive changes to council’s budget and internal processing.

“Council will need to shift much more of its budget into house building infrastructure such as transport, water and other community assets.”

Thomas has already proposed to reverse Len Brown’s $100M transport budget cut over three years and he wants to ‘swap’ the value of some of council’s airport shares and the port operating company into these ‘growth’ assets if Aucklanders agree.

“The Recommended Plan is radically different plan to the one council consulted on and proposed in 2013. Rather than a ‘rules-based’ approach, it adopts much more of a ‘hands-off’ method.”

As a member of part of Auckland Council, Thomas has attended several briefings on the plan.

“It will take some time for both council officials and market players to sort out how to apply the new plan’s provisions – which further risks delaying new housing building.”

“There are parts of the Plan that won’t work. The idea that we can fix Auckland’s affordability problems quickly by expanding into suburban Auckland is wrong. A greater range of housing types in suburban Auckland is inevitable – but Council’s first focus has to be in the areas where scale housing can be built more quickly.”

His plans included ramping up plans in council owned areas such as Henderson, Onehunga, Manukau and Takapuna.

Thomas said the Panel’s approach to create a simpler plan that is easier to work with is creditable, but parts of the plan risk losing the guidance designed to make it work effectively.

In his growth policies released in June, Thomas committed to accelerating affordable housing developments by increasing resourcing to the council’s development arm Panuku Development Auckland. He has also urged the Government to fast-track its urban development authority proposal. However he has flagged that if elected Mayor will propose a plan change to fix the specific rules that do not deliver an affordable, better balanced unitary plan.

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