The Resource Management Act is in for a big shake-up as the
Government looks for ways to make housing more affordable.
New proposals unveiled by the Government today aimed at boosting housing supply include a directive for councils to consent new subdivisions within a six-month timeframe.
For builders like John Grey, council consents are a major bugbear.
"In the building industry, time is money," Grey said.
"And when you're doing, say, a subdivisional project or something like that and it's taking you six months to get it, you've got to forecast your costs six months in advance."
That is the type of problem the Government agrees it needs to fix if it is boost the supply of houses.
"While prices are stable there's opportunity to change the
supply side, change the supply processes so we don't go into
another big house price cycle," said Finance Minister Bill
The Government is now promising to free up more land for development, giving councils a six-month deadline to deal with resource consents for mid-sized projects like large subdivisions and dairy factories, and making sure roads and services are provided to homes quickly.
Property Council CEO Connal Townsend said property developers have to borrow to pay for the time spent getting consents through "and that all just adds to the house cost".
The changes will have a major impact on councils that issue consents.
But so far, Auckland Council seems comfortable with the changes.
"Finally the Government understands that it's not just a simple process of releasing land. They're understanding the need for urban containment, brownfields redevelopment and intensification," said Penny Hulse, Auckland deputy mayor.
However, it is possible that consents could be taken out of council hands.
The Government is also working on whether a regional or a national hub should be created to process consents or whether a competitor should be allowed into the market.
But economists say it is demand for investment properties that is pushing up prices, not supply.
"I think it is artificial demand that is the problem," said economist Gareth Morgan.
"It's people buying multiple houses. So it's people not buying houses to live, they're buying them as investments."
'Weak response disappointing'
The Labour Party says the changes are tinkering around the margins and will do nothing to solve the housing affordability crisis.
Labour's Housing spokesperson Annette King said the Kiwi dream of home ownership and affordable housing for New Zealanders is dying and hope for resuscitation by government looks bleak.
"Families know that there is a shortage of good quality,
lower-priced housing. Bill English has admitted as much. But
nothing in his work programme today guarantees change in the medium
or long term."
After seven months in the making, New Zealanders have a right to feel let down, King said.
"This is a weak response to a comprehensive report. It's a
combination of; 'considering new ways', 'undertaking more
enquiries', 'doing more work' and 'undertaking evaluations'."
"National's business as usual approach, which addresses the supply-side of the crisis rather than the obvious demand, is not going to pave an affordable way forward for families," King said.
'Proposals fit' with Auckland Council's
Auckland Council says it is committed to working constructively with the Government to address housing issues facing the city.
Auckland Mayor Len Brown says the majority of the Government's proposals fit with Auckland Council initiatives including the Auckland Plan.
Brown agrees with Finance Minister Bill English that the housing market is "not working" at the moment.
"Land is available for development right now in Auckland, but in
many cases, developers do not feel confident enough to put that
land on the market," Brown said.
"This is a complex issue that requires the government and councils to work together with developers, the banks, the building industry and all the other players in the housing market to find long-term solutions," he said.
Urban sprawl is not the answer to housing affordability, Brown said.
He said there is now broad consensus that the way forward is the creation of an affordable, quality, compact city that gives Aucklanders housing choice.
This involves mixed density development on brownfield and greenfield sites, both inside the Rural Urban Boundary and in satellite centres such as Warkworth and Pukekohe, Brown said.