Archive | Urban strategies

The wheels are turning down the southern rail corridor

Published 3 September 2018
The wheels are turning and transformation down the southern corridor to Hamilton is on the way. Alternatively, transformation is on the way up that corridor, from Hamilton to Auckland.

Presumptuous? For Auckland there’s a serious adjustment: Instead of looking at Hamilton as a place to extend to, Auckland needs to see the Waikato is an active & growing part of a larger matrix, where change will occur at many stops in multiple directions.

The NZ Transport Agency has a Hamilton-Auckland corridor plan – and it has another for Hamilton-New Plymouth. Auckland, if it sees a triangle at all, sees one encompassing Tauranga/Mt Maunganui.

Image above: The corridor, running 5km each side the rail line between Hamilton & Auckland.

It’s all very hard to keep with, but consider these points of discussion & action, in the last few days and into the next week.

Tomorrow, Auckland Council’s planning committee considers the Hamilton-Auckland corridor plan & its role in this. The recommendation is to endorse participation, and the new Auckland Plan 2050 development strategy as the basis for staff input.

The corridor plan stemmed from calls from Waikato councils for investment in a commuter rail service between Hamilton & Auckland.

Urban development authority ideas also enter picture

The committee will also need to start thinking hard, and quickly, about the Government’s plans for an urban development authority – not just as a twinkle in the eye but something likely to be in place this year.

Ideas for such an authority have been around for the last 3 years, promoted by former Housing Minister Nick Smith and sent through a consultation process in 2016-17 by the Minister of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE), and taken up by Phil Twyford, now Minister of Transport and also of Housing & Urban Development.

Natural development will cross the Auckland-Waikato border – Pokeno as an Auckland suburban outlier on top of being a growing Waikato business & dairy production centre is an example.

Report notes interdependencies

As Auckland Council senior transport advisor Szening Ooi says in her report to tomorrow’s committee meeting: “There are significant interdependencies between Auckland & the Waikato that cross local government boundaries. However, previous spatial planning along the Auckland-Hamilton corridor has largely been confined within these administrative boundaries.”

She said the plan was initiated by the Government, aiming to investigate opportunities to unlock & shape growth along the rail corridor, unlock the potential to connect communities and provide access to jobs in Auckland & Waikato towns along the corridor.

The corridor plan went to a ministerial briefing on 25 June, aimed at getting all partners in it to agree on the project scope, purpose, objectives, deliverables, timetable & ongoing partnership. That was followed by a 3-day enquiry-by-design workshop in Tuakau on 27-29 August, where the project partners developed a draft integrated spatial plan for the corridor.

The NZ Transport Agency board is due to consider the business case for the Hamilton-Auckland start-up passenger rail service in October. That ties in with electrification of the Auckland rail line to Pukekohe, building the third main rail track along the southern line and completing the city rail link.

Maori roles & gains

Ms Ooi said Waikato Maori – Tainui, Ngati Paoa & the Hauraki Collective – were partners in the project, and it presented investment opportunities for Tamaki Makaurau iwi as well: “Additionally, Maori will benefit if the project’s aims of improving housing affordability, providing employment opportunities & enhancing the quality of the natural environments along the corridor are achieved.”

Auckland Council staff have recommended the establishment of a mana whenua–iwi steering group to sit in parallel with the project’s steering group.

Pressure on urban boundary structure

A pressure point for the Auckland council is the Government desire to see more land released for housing both inside & outside the rural:urban boundaries agreed in the brand-new Auckland unitary plan, to improve housing affordability. This is expressed in the just-released Cabinet paper, Urban growth agenda: Proposed approach (see link below).

Ms Ooi said: “Through the project, central government has indicated that it aims to provide spatial plans that are more ‘minimalist’ and allow the market to ‘fill in’ & sequence development where possible, rather than through regulation.

“There is a risk that, through this project, central government could apply a top-down approach to addressing growth management in Auckland & the Waikato that could undermine Auckland Council’s approach to urban growth and be contrary to both the Auckland Plan development strategy & the unitary plan.

“The project’s focus is also to connect communities & provide greater access to jobs in Auckland & Waikato towns along the rail corridor. The project does not aim to displace growth from Auckland to Waikato but may have this effect as it provides growth opportunities along the corridor. This is not an issue in itself, but the potential impacts & subsequent responses need to be better understood.”

The timeline now:

September: Refine the plan and further test with key stakeholders, amend as required
Late October: Governance leaders consider proposed plan
Mid-December: Governance leaders consider the partnership design & refined list of projects; formal consultation & endorsements & implementation to follow.

The Waikato lead

Future Proof, created by Waikato public bodies, says on its website: “We estimate that there will be nearly half a million people living in Hamilton and the surrounding Waikato & Waipa districts by 2061. That means we will almost double our population in the next 50 years. We want to know our future by planning today.”

The Future Proof partners have produced ‘Future proof strategy, planning for growth, November 2017’. This updates the 2009 strategy & implementation plan. The partners are now working on the second phase of the update.

Links:
Auckland Council planning committee, agenda item 4 September 2018:
11, Hamilton-Auckland corridor plan
Recommendation
Attachments
Outcomes of the Wellington ministerial briefing on 25 June  
Cabinet paper, released in August 2018: Urban growth agenda, proposed approach
Future Proof, Hamilton to Auckland corridor study, December 2012
Future Proof
Future Proof strategy 2017 – summary
Future Proof strategy 2017 
Background reports

NZ Transport Agency, transport corridor plans:
NZTA, 31 August 2018: $16.9 billion investment in the future of NZ
NZTA, 31 August 2018: National land transport programme, 2018-21
NLTP regional summaries
Auckland land transport plan summary

Attribution: Council committee agenda, Cabinet paper, Future Proof.

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Unitary plan already steering Auckland housing toward intensification, says council economist

Less than 2 years after Auckland Council’s zone-changing unitary plan started to become operative, council chief economist David Norman concludes that it’s been a major cause of housing intensification.

On the other side of the equation – which most on the council worried about as it wrote a plan encouraging more brownfield redevelopment & less new greenfield development – the urban fringes have taken a lower share of new housing.

The third important factor in the change of housing impetus is that intensification has spread through suburbia.

And the fourth is that developers have paid close attention to transport routes, especially rapid transit stops.

Image above: Auckland Council chief economist David Norman presenting to the council planning committee meeting at the Orakei marae.

The map below: The red dots represent intensification points around the Auckland region and the purple patches represent intensification along rapid transit corridors.

Mr Norman released a report on the unitary plan’s impacts on residential development at Auckland Council’s planning committee meeting yesterday – held at the Orakei marae – and spent over an hour answering questions from the committee about it.

The one councillor who would certainly have questioned Mr Norman’s view was Dick Quax, who died of cancer at the end of May, aged 70, after long advocating the removal of the rural:urban boundary and questioning intensification as a housing solution. The election for his replacement closes on 13 September.

Yesterday’s quizzing of the economist was more about the detail, not about the politics of greenfield versus intensifying use of the existing urban footprint.

The unitary plan became largely operative in November 2016, and the council now expects it could be fully operative next year, once the remaining 13 appeals are settled.

The changing market shares

Mr Norman said in his report it took about 9 months to begin to see the plan affecting what & where new dwellings were consented.

“In the 10 months since new dwelling consents began to surge in August 2017, total dwellings consented are up 27% compared to a year earlier. Almost all of the growth in consents has been in brownfield (existing urban) areas, reversing the trend toward more greenfield development over the previous 7 years.

“More intensive typologies, specifically apartments & terraced/townhouses, have grown to account for 54% of all new dwellings consented, compared to 37% 2 years ago. A disproportionate share of this denser development is around the rapid transit network.

Mr Norman said his analysis “provides an antidote to the view that relaxing development restrictions on the fringes of the urban area is necessarily the best way to reduce the housing shortage. People by & large prefer to live closer to jobs, infrastructure that works, public transport, schools, shops & other amenities. As a result, developers are showing a preference for delivering development in brownfield areas.

“Land on the fringes is significantly cheaper. But once the lack &/or value of infrastructure and proximity to amenities is accounted for, the market is displaying a strong preference for brownfield development.”

The day most of the unitary plan became operative, it up-zoned thousands of brownfield (existing urban) properties.

“Altogether, the plan provided capacity for up to one million new dwellings although, at the time, only an estimated 422,000 were deemed to be commercially feasible for development. This feasible growth was anticipated to be spread across brown & greenfield areas in a roughly 2:1 ratio.”

The chief economist’s unit at the council had estimated an upturn in new residential building consents would begin around April or May 2017, but this didn’t start until August. Since then, growth has been strong.

However, Mr Norman said little information was available about the effects of the plan on development patterns: “This report provides information to support future discussions & decisions about important issues such as whether to remove or relax the rural:urban boundary.”

How does he know there’s been a change in development emphasis?

“Building consents for new dwellings grew remarkably steadily from 2012 through to April 2016. This pattern broke, and growth plateaued, 6 months before the plan became operative in part. Anecdote suggested that many investors had bought brownfield land in advance of the plan becoming operative and were waiting to lodge consents for more intensive development once the plan was operative.

“During the period from November 2016 to July 2017, the first few months of the plan being operative, consent growth was even weaker, against the backdrop of a housing shortage approaching 40,000 in Auckland at the time. The data indicates that this was because developers were still making plans for more intensive development.

“Residential construction began to surge in August 2017. The number of new dwellings consented in the 10 months to May 2018 is up 27% over the same 10 months the year before, and annual consents were only 5% below the all-time peak in June 2004. This annual total is despite a much tighter 2005 Building Code regulatory regime & building consent authorities’ response to the leaky buildings crisis.

“There is significant evidence to suggest the sudden resurgence in consenting activity is the result of the plan beginning to work:

  1. Brownfield areas dominate consents growth: 90% of all growth in new dwellings consented in the 10 months to May 2018 (since the upturn began in August 2017) is in brownfield areas where the plan delivered the bulk of potential for greater development
  2. The trend toward green and away from brownfield growth has been reversed: The share of total new dwellings consented in brownfield areas in the 10 months since August 2017 has grown from 62% to 69%. This has reversed a trend of declining brownfield development as a share of building consents over the previous 7 years
  3. More intensive building typologies enabled by the plan are being adopted: Terraced houses & apartments were 54% of new dwellings consented in the 10 months to May 2018. In the 10 months to May 2016 (ie, the comparator 10-month period before the plan was passed), it was just 37%
  4. In the urban areas, the desired compact city is emerging: In the urban area, around 66% of new dwellings are multi-units, precisely what the plan aimed to deliver.

Further, Mr Norman said, “a disproportionately large number of dwellings are being consented in rapid transit network catchment areas – defined as living within 1500m of a train station or northern busway bus stop. This highlights that people value rapid transit access, and that development enabled by the plan is responding:

  1. The share of multi-unit dwellings consented in rapid transit network areas is 16 times higher than the catchment’s share of Auckland’s land area. The rapid transit network catchment covers only 2.6% of Auckland’s land area, but accounts for 42% of all multi-unit dwellings consented in the last 10 months
  2. 11% of standalone homes were consented in rapid transit network catchments. This is 4.3 times more than the catchment’s share of land area
  3. 81% of all dwellings consented in rapid transit network catchments in the last year were multi-unit, helping to deliver the intensification that characterises transit-oriented development
  4. Overall, 40% of all dwellings consented in the urban area were in the rapid transit network catchments, even though the catchments account for only a quarter of Auckland’s urban area.

Mr Norman said this analysis highlighted that people by & large prefer to live closer to jobs, infrastructure that works, public transport, schools, shops & other amenities. As a result, developers had revealed a preference for delivering development in brownfield areas.

“These findings provide evidence that counter the view that relaxing development restrictions on the fringes of the region, where few amenities exist, is the best way to reduce the housing shortfall. Land on the fringes is cheaper. But once the lack &/or value of infrastructure & geographic proximity to amenities is accounted for, the market is displaying a strong preference for brownfield development.”

Mr Norman said the central city was still the main target for developing apartments, but they were also becoming more common in the Albert-Eden ward and just across the harbour bridge in Takapuna & Devonport.

The exception was the Upper Harbour ward, where all 3 types of development were occurring. That ward includes Hobsonville, where all new housing is more intensive than the historical norms, including standalone homes.

Finally, there are changes in the south: “There are relatively large numbers of multi-unit dwellings being consented in the southern isthmus & southern local board areas. This suggests increased delivery of typologies in areas with larger Maori populations. Multi-unit developments are often cheaper on a per-unit basis than standalone housing, which may provide greater access to warm, dry modern housing for Maori in those areas.”

Another statistic, this one relating to the shortage of housing:

“In the period from April 2016-August 2017 we only saw 7.5% total growth in consents – 6%/year. What we’re seeing since then, in the 10 months to May 2018, is a 27% increase. Code compliance certificates are up 30% over that time period.

“We’re now generating code compliance certificates at a faster rate of increase than building consents, which means we’re catching up.”

Councillors’ questions

Cllr John Watson said intensification was one side of the equation, the other was bringing the price down: “Prices haven’t come down, they’ve probably gone up.”

Mr Norman: “A number of things colluded. We saw loan:value restrictions on investors. Investors are actually still in the market, but it’s largescale investors. Recent date shows foreign investors are still involved.”

At the same time as constraints were introduced, prices peaked in Auckland: “These 3 factors show they have played a part in decreasing prices. You also face the construction capacity constraints, which mean the cost of construction is going up 6-7%/year. About 4-5 floors, the cost is $6-7000/m² against $2500/m² for a standalone home.

“What is encouraging is house prices have not continued to accelerate, and I think the unitary plan is an important factor in that.”

Mr Norman said one factor affecting the provision of new homes – the time it takes to build – was much different because of the switch to multi-units: “Typically it was 6-9 months, a multi-unit can be 18 months.”

The value of special housing areas

Cllr Wayne Walker questioned the brief era of special housing areas introduced by former housing minister Nick Smith: “It dramatically escalated the value of land, sold & onsold by people who weren’t really interested in building on it. It’s in a situation where it’s not generating any housing and has escalated the value of neighbouring land.”

Mr Norman: “My personal view is that we probably didn’t get as much development out of special housing areas as we thought we’d see. The intent was around accelerating resource consent applications, but if I were to do it again, I’d require them to build in a certain time.

“What is different about what I’m talking about today [the widespread intensification], this is not land where you’ve had to get a private plan change request. This is a broad plan that affects the entire city, it immediately creates competition. Why should I pay this amount when I can get land cheaper 2 blocks over?

“What makes property valuable? You talk about the rural:urban boundary. I’ve seen very little evidence that accounts for land price differences inside & outside the rural:urban boundary. What we do know is that infrastructure makes it liveable [inside the boundary] and people pay for that.

“I’m far less convinced that we’ve been in a speculative bubble. We’ve had a huge increase in population and prices go up, helped by low interest rates. I think that is a factor.”

State of the construction sector

Mr Norman had some interesting observations on the calamity of the moment, the collapse of one apartment builder, Ebert Construction Ltd, into receivership and the questions being raised about the state of the vertical construction sector.

Mr Norman said he worked in the construction sector for several years, including 2 years as BRANZ (Building Research Association) senior economist, and built his own house. On the players in construction, he said: “These are businesses, like in every other sector, sometimes they make good choices, sometimes they don’t. It is not my view that it’s central government’s role to hold the hand of business.”

Taking a longer-term view, he said it shouldn’t be about keeping spending down, and the solution shouldn’t rest solely with the Government. The sector should use the spotlight on it as an opportunity to improve project management: “We are not talking about victims here.”

Nimby protests versus over-dominating structures

Cllr Chris Fletcher raised a specific issue which she suspected might be a more common anomaly in the unitary plan – the redevelopment of a former nurses’ home on Banff Avenue, Epsom, by new owner Housing NZ. She said the street had 40 bungalows, a church & a small church school. Understandably, she said, Housing NZ “are going to go for maximum yield”.

Cllr Fletcher said the neighbours would have been happy with 3-storey development, but Housing NZ intended to build to 5 storeys. Intensification was “a wonderful trend – but nor do I want to see it at any cost, and I want to see the continuing public support for the process.

“But if we have an anomaly, what is the route we take? I don’t believe it’s just nimbyism, they’re happy to see 3 storeys but not 5 storeys in a 3-storey street.”

This was a question for council plans & places general manager John Duguid, who thought the specific case was “probably long past the point where we can do anything. In other cases I certainly invite councillors & others to bring them to my notice and we can respond.”

When might prices fall?

Cllr Fa’anana Efeso Collins raised a question which is on the other side of the affordability equation from the clamour for an urgent increase in supply: “At what point – or what are the conditions – that will lead to a fall in house prices? Surely at some point there must be a fall in house prices.

Mr Norman: “Short of an economic meltdown that I am not forecasting, I do not see a reason why house prices should fall immediately or in the short term. I do think we will see 2 things. Firstly, why not a fall? The basics of supply & demand, we haven’t had the shortfall. You’ve got this floor propping up prices, that’s not going to disappear any time soon.

“The cost/m² is a lot higher in apartments. We are seeing a subtle change in typology. Over the last 5 years the average dwelling size has fallen from 210m² to 172m², a 38% reduction, and that’s because of the switch in typology.

“100m², we were able to do that before and live quite comfortably. A shortfall this size [which he estimated at about 45,000 homes], there is no incentive for anyone to build cheaper – why would you leave money on the table?”

Mr Norman’s second point was that a focus on building more expensive homes for greater profit ought to open up a market for different types of housing: “If the market would only deliver houses at $850-900,000, we’re potentially opening up a different type of housing – you don’t want a second living room, you just want to be warm & dry.”

Cllr Collins: “I accept the position but I think we have to accept there are people who will never attain that dream.”

Catering for large families

Cllr Desley Simpson asked what was being done to provide houses for large families, “given we are the biggest Polynesian city in the world.”

Mr Norman: “The way I estimate my housing shortfall is to calculate the number of residents in a household. Households are shrinking in Auckland and we’re seeing the number of people/household increasing, that’s because of our demographic input. So we’re very aware of the fact we are increasing housing and it affects some communities more than others.

“We’re also seeing it in terms of the typology. Our standalone homes are too large at an average 230m², but it is the way people are choosing to live.”

However, he had seen 5-6 bedroom houses where people were banding together to form bigger households.

Links:
Chief economist’s report to planning committee, 7 August 2018: 14, Impacts of the unitary plan on residential development   
Live stream of David Norman at planning committee, 7 August 2018

Attribution: Norman report, committee meeting.

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Twyford creates new housing & urban development ministry

Housing & Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford.

When the new Government allocated portfolios last October, Labour’s Phil Twyford won housing & urban development and the separate transport role.

On Friday, he announced that housing & urban development would get its own ministry, to be established on 1 August, operating from 1 October.

Initially, the Government will move functions from existing agencies, and will look at using funding from their existing operational budgets:

  • From the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment: the housing & urban policy functions, the KiwiBuild unit and the Community Housing Regulatory Authority
  • From the Ministry of Social Development: policy for emergency, transitional & public housing, and
  • From Treasury: monitoring of Housing NZ & the Tamaki Redevelopment Co Ltd.

The changes won’t affect where people go to for help with housing. The Ministry of Social Development will continue to assess people’s need for housing support and manage the public housing register.

The aim is for the new ministry to help deliver on the Government’s priorities of making housing more affordable & cities more liveable. Mr Twyford said: “Addressing the national housing crisis is one of the biggest challenges our government faces. The new ministry will provide the focus & capability in the public service to deliver our reform agenda.

“Too many New Zealanders are hurting because of their housing situation. Many are locked out of the Kiwi dream of home ownership. Others are homeless or suffering the health effects of poor quality housing.

“The new ministry will be the Government’s lead advisor on housing & urban development. It will provide across-the-board advice on housing issues, including responding to homelessness, ensuring affordable, warm, safe & dry rental housing in the private & public market, and the appropriate support for first-homebuyers.”

Mr Twyford said the new ministry would provide the Government with strong leadership & fresh thinking. It would also end the fragmented current approach caused by involving a number of agencies.

Then he rattled off 7 aims of the new government:

  • Ramping up efforts to house the homeless
  • Building affordable homes through KiwiBuild
  • Modernising & building more public housing
  • Reforming the tenancy laws to make life better for renters
  • Setting minimum standards to make rentals warm & dry
  • Adjusting the tax settings to discourage speculation, and
  • Setting up an urban development authority to lead largescale urban development projects.

In sum, he said: “The Ministry of Housing & Urban Development will help us deliver our bold & ambitious plan to build much-needed affordable housing, and create modern & liveable cities ready for the future.”

Earlier stories:
25 March 2018: Unitec land transfer kicks off KiwiBuild
23 May 2016: Is it really a faraway boundary that’s raising inner-city house prices?
8 November 2015: Twyford talks ideas which unitary plan & council funding review likely to resolve

Attribution: Ministerial release.

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Australian research attributes high proportion of housing cost to regulations

Advocates of removing urban growth boundaries have hailed a research paper on the effect of zoning on house prices, issued by the Reserve Bank of Australia last week.

The research paper, by Ross Kendall & Peter Tulip, was published in the bank’s discussion paper series “intended to make the results of the current economic research within the Reserve Bank available to other economists”.

The bank noted: “Its aim is to present preliminary results of research so as to encourage discussion & comment. Views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Reserve Bank. Use of any results from this paper should clearly attribute the work to the authors and not to the Reserve Bank of Australia.”

The authors wrote in their abstract: “Zoning regulations provide benefits, but they also restrict housing supply and hence raise prices. This paper quantifies their importance by comparing prices to the marginal costs of supply at different points in time. For detached houses, marginal costs comprise the dwelling structure & the land that other home owners need to forego.

“Relative to our estimates of these costs, we find that, as of 2016, zoning raised detached house prices 73% above marginal costs in Sydney, 69% in Melbourne, 42% in Brisbane & 54% in Perth.

“Zoning has also raised the price of apartments well above the marginal cost of supply, especially in Sydney. We emphasise that this is not the amount that housing prices would fall in the absence of zoning. The effect of zoning has increased dramatically over the past 2 decades, likely due to existing restrictions binding more tightly as demand has risen.”

In their introduction, the Australian researchers wrote: “Some government policies, which we will refer to as zoning, restrict the supply of housing. Examples include minimum lot sizes, maximum building heights & planning approval processes. Although these restrictions may confer benefits, they also raise the price of housing. This paper attempts to quantify the effect of zoning on housing prices in Australia’s 4 largest cities.

“Anecdotal evidence suggests that zoning can have a huge effect on land values. For example, a 363ha site in Wyndam Vale (40km west of Melbourne) increased in value from $A120 million to $A400 million following its rezoning from rural to residential.

“Examples like this are common. Such large increases in values as a result of zoning changes are inconsistent with the view that a physical shortage of land itself is the main cause of high land values & housing prices – and instead point towards a high ‘shadow price’ of government permission to build dwellings as a likely explanation. It is difficult, however, to gauge how representative these anecdotes are, or to analyse how they change over time or place.”

3 issues – urban footprint, zoning & construction rules

3 planning issues are involved, and appear confused here. One is the allowance (& support) for expansion of the urban footprint; the second is the zoning confining property activities to specified areas. Third are the many rules on construction, such as height:boundary.

In the New Zealand context, Auckland has had an issue with the urban growth boundaries instituted by the region’s local bodies in the late 1990s, which made it nigh on impossible to expand the urban footprint.

The Auckland Regional Council was most opposed to expansion, while the Manukau & Waitemata territorial councils pressed the case for enabling development to expand.

The Auckland City Council saw the boundary constraint as an aid to intensification, which suited the council for the region’s central isthmus.

With inadequate boundary expansion & inadequate forethought given to intensification, the immigration spike of 2003-04 under the Labour government was met by an inadequate supply of new homes.

But the net inflow during that spike peaked at 35,000/year. This time round, the inflow began to surge in 2013, reached 60,000/year in August 2015 – compared to a total net inflow of 65,000 over the previous 7 years – and reached 70,000/year in October 2016.

It’s easy to see that housing supply could have caught up during that 7-year immigration slump, but that’s asking a sector which traditionally expands when the sun’s out to do so during a downpour.

The supply of money increased when the US introduced its quantitative easing programme (and other countries adopted similar measures) as a means of exiting the global financial crisis of a decade ago, but it also slashed interest rates.

This meant people could borrow more; it also meant prices would rise.

Attributing a rise in house prices to “zoning” (or, I think in the Australian examples as well as in New Zealand, inadequate expansion of the urban footprint) is irrational if these other causes are ignored, and it’s difficult to see in this Australian research what value is placed on the positives of regulation or on other economic factors such as the contribution of low interest rates.

Auckland’s unitary plan

As for zoning in the New Zealand context, Auckland’s unitary plan – the combination of both regional & district plans that preceded it, and updated – has provided a far greater capacity for intensification throughout suburbia, as well as providing for greenfield expansion. But that plan is new, and it will take time for the effects to be felt.

The next question concerns the orderly & efficient provision of infrastructure to enable intensification & expansion – one of the 2 reasons for creating the urban boundary. The other reason was to curtail urban encroachment into Auckland’s countryside, and that still hasn’t been dealt with sensibly.

Link:
Reserve Bank of Australia, March 2018: The effect of zoning on housing prices
Earlier stories:
19 January 2017:
Building consent highs still don’t match migrant demand
23 December 2016:
48% of net migrant inflow stops in Auckland
22 November 2016:
Migrant inflow tops 70,000/year
31 January 2014:
Migrant inflow strongest since 2003

Attribution: Reserve Bank of Australia research paper.

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Unlock Avondale project gets go-ahead, Takapuna carpark decision deferred

Auckland Council’s planning committee approved the over-arching plan for regeneration of Avondale yesterday.

The Unlock Avondale high level project plan will be delivered by the city’s urban regeneration agency, Panuku Development Auckland.

Whau Local Board chair Tracy Mulholland said the plan built on work completed by the local board & community groups: “It will drive momentum for change in the area, with a focus on the town centre. The regeneration of Avondale will see current & future residents enjoying new open spaces and a purpose-built community facility, including a new library that will serve its needs.”

Ward councillor Ross Clow said the regeneration of Avondale was long overdue: “This plan is important to drive the development of quality residential neighbourhoods and to help meet Auckland’s growing demand for affordable homes. It will also address the issues arising from population growth in Avondale & the wider area.”

And Panuku chief operating officer David Rankin said a number of key moves would enable the vision for Avondale: “Panuku will work closely with the local board & community to implement a retail strategy that attracts new businesses, increasing diversity of products & services.
“The train station, upgraded bus network & new cycleways offer great transport options, and we will continue to strengthen connections between these activity hubs & the town.

“A focus for the regeneration of Avondale is working with developers to build quality residential neighbourhoods that offer a mix of housing types, including terraces & apartments. A number of significant developments are already underway in the area.”

Ockham Residential is due to complete the construction of 72 new one- to 3-bedroom apartments at 24-26 Racecourse Parade in March 2018. Through a partnership with the NZ Housing Foundation, 33 new homes are near completion on Trent St, including 21 affordable homes.

Takapuna carpark decision deferred

In other business yesterday, the council committee deferred its decision on a hearing panel recommendation to change the use of the carpark at 40 Anzac St, Takapuna, to one that enables a mix of uses.

The deferral is to allow Panuku to consult further with the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board on how this process can be progressed. It will report back to the planning committee by next March.

Attribution: Council release.

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Hamilton-Auckland commuter rail service wins support “in principle”, Panuku gets more tools

Auckland Council’s planning committee voted more strongly yesterday in favour of investigating a regular commuter rail link between Auckland & Hamilton than the tone of the debate indicated.

The committee had before it a position paper prepared last year after multiple-agency collaboration and received brief input from a lobby group chair, Rob Weir, who’d come up from Hamilton for the meeting and was invited by committee chair Chris Darby to speak.

Auckland Council staff sought committee support for a high level review to identify opportunities & constraints, but there was more debate on the value of such a study if it was unlikely to lead anywhere.

The way forward was determined by an addition by Cllr Cathy Casey to the recommendations for the committee to support the provision of a passenger rail service in principle.

While some thought it ought to be a low priority against a stack of other multi-billion-dollar infrastructure confronting the council, the “in principle” tag worked, the additional clause was supported by 18-1 and the amended recommended was approved unanimously.

That means the proposal will be studied, not necessarily resulting in a regular service.

Extra acquisition tools for Panuku endorsed

The committee also endorsed a proposal that its regeneration arm, Panuku Development Auckland, be able to use – “prudently” – statutory tools such as designation & compulsory acquisition in the areas around the region marked as “unlock” or “transform”.

  • Both the commuter rail proposition and the extension of Panuku’s ability to advance regeneration are worth a lot more attention than the few words above. I’ll write more about both in the next few days.

Attribution: Council committee meeting.

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Tracking ideas Sun16Apr17 – King tides & what to do

King tides in Miami may bring forth solutions

Tracking ideas is a Bob Dey Property Report section devoted to ideas on property questions such as urban strategies & design, many from overseas but with relevance to Auckland.

King tides in Miami may bring forth solutions

The Miami beachfront after recent king tides.

Southern Florida was flooded last November, hit by king tides, and architects will look at solutions at a conference in Orlando on 27-29 April.

Normally such an event would pass us by. After Edgecumbe’s inundation, after what turned out to be excessive caution in Auckland (warnings about closing of the harbour bridge mid-afternoon before Easter, cancellation of flights for a storm that didn’t eventuate), now we’ll pay more attention to construction & site precautions, perhaps less to officialdom’s warnings.

The full heading in the US Architect’s Newspaper read, Facing rising sea levels & greater insurance risk, Southern Florida braces for relocations, new flood design standards & more. On a coastline like Miami’s – a rich people’s playground – the greatest concern is likely to be over the potential loss of insurance cover, and that’s likely to make them think of long-term solutions.

In New Zealand, alarm at millimetre-by-millimetre sea level creep can only make you hold your breath for a day or 2, and then you return to life as usual, which doesn’t include too much concern about climate change.

But, climate change or not, when high river flows run into exceptional tides – the photo above shows the flow from the beach-end creek battling out against the ebbing tidal flow at Stanmore Bay on 4 April – floods can rise quickly.

We know this, but our reactions remain slow.

Miami-Dade County chief resiliency officer Jim Murley said the Great Miami Chamber of Commerce’s second sea-level rise solutions conference on Friday 5 May would focus on building solutions, business opportunities & regional collaboration.

In the American way, business opportunities are likely to attract most attention. Building solutions may flow from that.

Links:
The Architect’s Newspaper, 12 April 2017: Southern Florida braces for relocations
Miami sea-level rise solutions conference

Attribution: The Architect’s Newspaper, Miami Chamber of Commerce.

Regular leads: Planetizen

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Tracking ideas Sat15Apr17 – How to beat floods, vertical farm for Shanghai

Look on the back of an envelope for response to flood scare
100ha urban farm to feed Shanghai

Tracking ideas is a Bob Dey Property Report section devoted to ideas on property questions such as urban strategies & design, many from overseas but with relevance to Auckland.

Look on the back of an envelope for response to flood scare

I read the heading, Flooding forces overhaul of building rules, and thought: Is there another way?

And then: Of course there is another way. There is always another way.

The immediate response is to say “No, you can’t build there”. Alternatives would encourage inventive architects, such as:

  • Change the design of houses so flooding doesn’t get inside
  • Do, as the owner of a house I pass every day on my way to the beach did, acknowledge that the land was once swamp and remained subject to some flooding, especially on the tide, and build garage & workshop downstairs, living quarters upstairs
  • Build on stilts, as many communities through Asia do
  • Alter coastal landscapes so rising seas are forced to take less invasive paths
  • Produce barriers that can be raised on threat of flooding – mechanical sandbagging.

The beachfront of grand unused baches

I swim at a beach where every shoreline house is a bach, or the multi-million-dollar equivalent, none occupied more than a few days/year so no homelessness there in the event of a flood, but a resthome and houses on the drained swamp would be affected.

Those grand beachfront baches are an example of changing lifestyles. The grown children don’t have time to look after the bach and are more likely to want to go on overseas holidays, the grandchildren might enjoy it for a week or 2 but are also getting used to grander escapades further afield. And the parents/grandparents don’t turn up because they’d be rattling round on their own.

Some of these baches have enough space around them for the games which no longer get played, but the question is there: Why does beachfront have to be so exclusive that nobody occupies it?

For the owners of these individual sections there is capital gain (though some have been held by the same families for generations), but there can still be capital gain if occupancy is more effective, such as apartments used year-round.

2 beaches up the coast, at the top of Orewa, it’s been done. 30 years ago, a group of investors bought a large site between the main road and the beach, built 2-storey units in a resort style with the intention of using some of the units themselves – and were sent bust through bank inflexibility & outrageously high penalty rates in the 1987 crash. All but one of the 8 were bankrupted, the other saved by investing through a trust.

From my drive-by observations, a development launched in good times, completed in hard times, has had variable success but these days is well used.

Saying no to coastal development for fear of occasional flooding or long-term inundation resulting from climate change cannot be a New Zealand answer: innate ingenuity should see to that.

Where do people want to live? And how to do it

I had a conversation about intensification last year with a property professional, who asked me: “Where do people most want to live in Auckland?” We both answered: “On the coast.” Then he posed a second question: “Where do authorities [government & council] want to see housing built?” He answered: “In places like New Lynn.”

Now I happen to think that New Lynn and many suburban villages like it have a tremendous future if new intensive housing is accompanied by the right kinds of other development – businesses, community amenities, education – and if transit lines encourage 2-way travel to suburban work beyond the standard shopkeeping.

But, in the current climate, the pressure to provide housing first comes way ahead of the social & occupational infrastructure (a wider range of jobs than is traditional in suburban centres), making for desolate suburbs & long commutes.

And the coastal side of the argument? Build apartment blocks & townhouses where individual palaces have dominated, we agreed. Expensive? Probably. Worth doing? Yes.

What about Edgecumbe?

Would these simple answers work for Edgecumbe, a whole Bay of Plenty town submerged when the Rangitaiki River burst its banks?

A torrent like that hitting Edgecumbe will defeat even the greatest optimist – today. Tomorrow, we need to search for answers because New Zealand is primarily a coastal country.

100ha urban farm to feed Shanghai

International architecture firm Sasaki Associates Inc (Boston & Shanghai) unveiled plans last month for a square kilometre (100ha) urban farm in the midst of Shanghai’s skyscrapers. Design writer Nicole Jewell wrote on the Inhabit website: “The project is a mega farming laboratory that will meet the food needs of almost 24 million people while serving as a centre for innovation, interaction & education within the world of urban agriculture.”

Fast Company named Sasaki’s proposal for the Sunqiao urban agricultural district, intended to have vertical farms next to office towers, as a finalist in its World-changing ideas awards.

Sasaki principal Michael Grove said at the awards: “Sometimes an idea that can have a big impact is so obvious that it’s a bit strange to think it hasn’t been done already. With leafy greens accounting for about 56% of the typical Shanghainese diet, the fact they are the ideal crop for hydroponic growing systems, and the cost of land driving buildings up instead of out, Shanghai is the ideal environment for the vertical farms that make up Sunqiao.”

The award winners included Hillary Fellowship’s global impact visa

Fast Company announced 12 winners in March out of 192 finalists & over 1000 entries for its first world-changing ideas awards.

I’ve just realised I did see these awards at the time but skipped by quickly after looking at the first of the finalists, which was an edible 6-pack ring. One of the winners was the Edmund Hillary Fellowship’s global impact visa (link below).

Links:
Inhabitat, 13 April 2017: Shanghai is planning a massive 100ha vertical farm to feed 24 million people
Sasaki, 20 March 2017: Sunqiao named one of FastCo’s world-changing ideas
Sasaki, Sunqiao urban agricultural district
Fast Company, 20 March 2017: Announcing the winners of the 2017 world-changing ideas awards

Earlier story:
Tracking ideas Sun26Mar17 – Melbourne plan review, value of transit, world-changing ideas

Attribution: Inhabitat, Fast Company, Sasaki.

Regular leads: Planetizen

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Tracking ideas Sun26Mar17 – Melbourne plan review, value of transit, world-changing ideas

Backyards protected in Melbourne plan review
Agency measures the value of a bus stop or station to house prices
Fast Company rates Homes for hope

Tracking ideas is a Bob Dey Property Report section devoted to ideas on property questions such as urban strategies & design, many from overseas but with relevance to Auckland.

Backyards protected in Melbourne plan review

In a defensive change this month the Melbourne plan through to 2050, Victoria’s Labor Government instituted a requirement for suburban development to provide space for a traditional backyard.

“There will no longer be a cap on how many dwellings can be built on a block (section), but new requirements mean developments must have a mandatory percentage of garden space…. Under new rules, blocks between 400-500m² require a 25% minimum garden area, blocks between 501-600m² need 30%, and blocks larger than 650m² must have a 35% garden area: It’s all about giving more Victorians access to the outdoor space that is the cornerstone of great homes, and giving kids more opportunities to form their childhood memories in backyards every day all over the state.”

The state government said the plan was aimed at integrating long-term land use, infrastructure & transport planning: “It sets out the strategy for supporting jobs & growth, while building on Melbourne’s legacy of distinctiveness, liveability & sustainability.”

The plan includes:

  • 9 principles to guide policies & actions
  • 7 outcomes to strive for in creating a competitive, liveable & sustainable city
  • 32 directions outlining how these outcomes will be achieved, and
  • 90 policies detailing how these directions will be turned into action.

Links:
Plan Melbourne 2017-50
11 March 2017: Plan Melbourne 2017-50 change
11 March 2017: Australian Policy Online, Plan Melbourne 2017-50

Agency measures the value of a bus stop or station to house prices

A Seattle-based online real estate agency which has measured the value of transit to a house’s price said its analysis showed one transit score point could increase the value by an average 0.6%, or $US2040.

Those transit scores could be substantial – in San Francisco, transit could be worth 80 points, at $US4845/point, adding $US387,600 to the $US950,000 median house value, according to the analysis.

At the other end of the scale, in Orange County, California, proximity to public transport actually made a home less valuable, by $US201/point for an average home. The median price in the county was $US580,000 and the agency, Redfin, ascribed a 27-point value to transit there, so the cut for being near an Orange bus stop or station was only $US5427.

Redfin agent Keith Thomas said: “Most people in Orange County prefer to drive their own cars – few would consider any other way to get around. Parking is easy to come by and traffic isn’t bad, so it makes sense that public transit doesn’t impact the price of a home the way it would in a more urban area like LA.”

Redfin did its analysis of a million homes sold in 14 major metropolitan areas between January 2014-April 2016. The transit score measured the usefulness & convenience of public transport (bus, subway, light rail, ferry, etc) routes near a given location.

Links:
20 March 2017, Builder: Redfin values proximity to transit
20 March 2017: Redfin study

Fast Company rates Homes for hope

The Fast Company website called up 25 judges to assess over a thousand entries from around the world for its first world-changing ideas awards, and reduced the thousand to 12 winners, including one relating to property. 19 of the 192 finalists were concerned with urban design and one finalist was from New Zealand.

The University of Southern California’s School of Architecture combined forces with Madworkshop Homeless Studio to produce Homes for hope: “Students designed modular houses that can be stacked and provide fast & simple housing to get people off the streets. Each 92ft² (8.6m²) unit comes with a bed, dresser and even a desk. In groups of 30, with a base unit that contains bathrooms, shared living & dining spaces, and courtyards, the houses are designed to utilise the city’s large swathes of vacant land by creating easily assembled communities that work within the city’s zoning laws and serve as a bridge home to keep people sheltered before they move to more permanent housing.”

The global impact visa

The New Zealand entry was the Edmund Hillary Fellowship’s global impact visa, launched last year.

The fellowship’s mission: To incubate solutions to global problems from New Zealand and make a lasting positive impact on the world… to serve as a platform to best leverage humankind’s creative potential & entrepreneurial spirit to build new paradigms, and create scalable solutions for the rest of the world.”

Links:
20 March 2017, inaugural Fast Company world-changing ideas awards
Edmund Hillary Fellowship

Attribution: Victorian Government, Redfin, Fast Company.

Regular leads: Planetizen

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Tracking ideas Sun5Mar17 – retail future, government buildings?

Online shopping rings in changes
And – with less regulation – government buildings?

Tracking ideas is a Bob Dey Property Report section devoted to ideas on property questions such as urban strategies & design, many from overseas but with relevance to Auckland.

Online shopping rings in changes

First, floorspace use

An article on the US National Housing Institute website Rooflines proposes a change in the US tradition of ground-floor retail, upstairs residential in many city districts because online shopping is reducing physical retail demand.

Crains’ New York business website suggested the retail sector was beyond the stage of bouncing back from the online shopping trend.

Project for Public Spaces, however, argues in a January article less about total retail space, more about how many “third places” are vital for the community.

Other ideas, such as “third spaces”

Sociology professor Ray Oldenburg wrote about people needing 3 places: the home, the workplace or school, and beyond that a third place – a public space on neutral ground where people can gather & interact while experiencing a sense of ease & belonging. In his 1991 book The Great Good Place, he argued that bars, cafés, stores & other “third places” are central to local democracy & community vitality.

In Seattle, property developer Ron Sher took up the message and founded Third Place Books after the author’s central theme.

The Project for Public Spaces website said: “Along with piles of books, the stores also contain cafés, restaurants & taverns that attract users of all ages, interests & backgrounds. The common areas host community programmes such as college jazz concerts, game nights, knitting clubs, farmers’ markets, story hours & tai chi lessons, while meeting rooms in the back offer gathering spaces for more private activities like study & support groups, or foreign language & computer lessons.”

And – with less regulation – government buildings?

The Atlantic – like many US media long on Trump criticism – raised an aspect of the US presidency that may well extend the retail vacancy trend into the bureaucracy sector.

Its article was about how there’s not much to do at the State Department, and a suspicion that some early redundancies will be extended within the department. Take that a logical step further: a president who’s averse to regulation is in the prime position to get rid of it, everywhere. And the US, for all its chanting of the words democracy & freedom, is a highly regulated country.

While Mr Trump seems intent on maintaining police lines and increasing the US military presence, it’s easy to see much other regulation being sidelined. In quick time the country could see scores of government buildings being vacated.

Links:
Rooflines, 16 February 2017: Should online shopping change how we use space?
Crains, 29 January 2017: Some experts say retail will bounce back. Don’t buy it
Project for Public Spaces, 5 January 2016: Can retail space be an extension of the public realm? A look at Seattle’s Third Place Books
The Atlantic, 1 March 2017: The state of Trump’s State Department

Attribution: Rooflines, Crains, Project for Public Spaces, The Atlantic.

Regular leads: Planetizen

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