Penny Hulse: Addressing Auckland’s housing crisis
The report by Wellington researcher Ian Mitchell which found 78 per cent of Auckland’s 109,000 households in paid work and private rentals can’t afford to buy a relatively cheap house made for depressing reading.
Auckland Council is painfully aware of the housing crisis and we are working hard to address some of the barriers to the provision of affordable housing.
We are very concerned about the impacts of rapidly rising prices which include a generation of young people who may never be able to buy a house, people being forced to live in overcrowded and sub-standard accommodation and the risk of prices eventually collapsing if prices overshoot what is justified by underlying demand.
Demand for housing has been fuelled by rapid population growth due to natural increase and record levels of immigration. Auckland has grown by around 100,000 people since amalgamation in 2010! That’s the population of Lower Hutt.
We have made significant progress in freeing up land for housing, as well as ensuring we have sufficient land for growth in business activity. The Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan has zoned 11,000 hectares of land “future urban”. This land will be urbanised progressively over the next 30 years and will allow for more than 110,000 dwellings outside current urban areas.
The Unitary Plan will also allow for greater intensification in existing neighbourhoods, especially in places with good public transport. By encouraging really good urban design we aim to create neighbourhoods that are great places to live with a choice of housing from standalone, to apartments and town houses.
The Auckland Housing Accord between central government and Auckland Council and its Special Housing Area legislation were designed to get more houses built without having to wait for the Unitary Plan to come into effect. The 97 Special Housing Areas have made a significant contribution to the rapid release of land for housing.
We are not just focused on the supply of land. Our new urban development agency Panuku Development Auckland, established at the beginning of this month, will work with developers to get development on council owned land. Panuku Development Auckland is in a unique position to assemble large parcels of land to get quality development at scale.
We also need to ensure the right infrastructure is in place to support projected growth. Our 10 year Long Term Plan and 30 year infrastructure strategy both have a strong emphasis on provision of parks, community facilities, sports grounds and passenger transport to service growth.
The cost of growth is still a challenge for Council however we are committed to finding new ways to fund and finance infrastructure including partnerships with the private sector and government.
Auckland Council has a strong partnership with government and we are collaborating in many ways. But we do not believe Auckland can simply build its way out of the housing problem. We also need to look at making long-term renting a viable option, at interventions specifically targeted to the provision of affordable and social housing such as innovative funding tools.
That’s what we are working on and that’s what we will continue to work on.
Penny Hulse is the Deputy Mayor of Auckland City.