Labour and Nationals housing plans for Auckland likened to Soviet-style blocks

Labour and National are in the dog box with Auckland Council over plans to roll out “Soviet-style” housing across the city.

The two main parties have shown no confidence in the council and the Unitary Plan to tackle the housing crisis and are imposing their own solution on the Super City.

Under their plan, developers will be able to build up to three homes of up to three storeys on most sites without the need for resource consent, even in some rural areas like Algies Bay and Maraetai.

This will see boxy homes built up to the third storey within 1m of neighbouring boundaries with small outlooks and outdoor living area, and few design controls. Developers can apply for a resource consent to build more than three storeys without the public having a say.

“The focus is really about bulk and location, not architecture and design,” said John Duguid, council’s general manager of plans and places at today’s planning committee meeting.

He compared the bill to putting more fertiliser on land that has already been fertilised.

Orakei Local Board chairman Scott Milne was blunt: “This is a scorched earth policy to build Soviet-style blocks.”

“We don’t want to be the council that oversaw the uglification of the city,” said Milne in a presentation to the committee.

Mayor Phil Goff said Labour and National’s plans are worse than what cowboy developers are already putting up in places like Takanini and Manurewa, and leave the council with less control.

“We have to create housing of acceptably quality and design and not create slums of the future,” he said.

The mayor credited the Unitary Plan, the planning blueprint for the city since 2016, with delivering an historic number of 20,000 building consents in the past year, of which 77 per cent are for multi-unit homes.

Councillor Shane Henderson supported the thrust of the bill, albeit with design changes.

He said an independent analysis by PwC of the policy was gold, showing it will deliver more houses where people want them and slow prices.

PwC said it would see as many as 105,500 extra new homes built in less than a decade.

The bill is an extension to an earlier move by the Government in July last year – the National Policy Statement on Urban Development(NPS-UD) – directing high growth cities like Auckland to reset their plans for six-storey apartment buildings close to city centres and along transport corridors.

Preliminary analysis by council planners found the bill would allow development right across suburban Auckland and a number of rural settlements at higher densities in the Unitary Plan for 900,000 homes, of which 650,000 are commercially viable.

There is no need for the Medium Density Residential Standards(MDRS) in the bill, officers said.

What’s more, they said, if the bill goes ahead the council will struggle to provide the necessary infrastructure.

The bill has also raised alarm bells with heritage groups in the city, who fear it could lead to villas and bungalows being bulldozed in special character areas.

The council is hoping to have many of the 30,000 homes in the special character zones qualify for an exemption, but Duguid, today said these numbers will be reduced.

Devonport Heritage chairwoman Margot McRae said the bill will turn Auckland into an unliveable and ugly city.

“This will be a green light for developers to put up cheap, badly designed buildings that will be miserable to live in and miserable to look at,” she said.

The planning committee set up a process to prepare a response to the Housing Enabling Bill before submissions close on November 16. The Government plans to pass the bill before Christmas to come into effect in August next year.

The bill will also apply in Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington and Christchurch.

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