The only way is up if Wellington wants to solve its housing crisis, says report

Wellington's housing density could change in suburban areas if the Housing Forum recommendations are adopted.
MAARTEN HOLL/STUFF

Wellington's housing density could change in suburban areas if the Housing Forum recommendations are adopted.

Wellington needs to grow up if it wants to solve its housing crisis, a report says.

At the heart of the problem is the lack of supply, and one way to solve it is raising height limits in the suburbs to match those in the city centre.

 The advice comes from a recent Housing Forum, at which 70 stakeholders from the housing sector, community organisations and politicians came up with solutions to problems identified by the Mayor's Housing Task Force.

The only way is up for Wellington, says developer Maurice Clark. "There is so little land, we can't spread out."
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The only way is up for Wellington, says developer Maurice Clark. "There is so little land, we can't spread out."

Its recommendations also include allowing more infill housing in the suburbs, financial incentives for affordable housing, and investigating ways to speed up development processes.

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The report has divided opinions among councillors, and is certain to be unwelcome to many suburban residents.

One size won't fit all, says city councillor Diane Calvert, a Khandallah resident. "Not everyone wants to live in ...
ROSS GIBLIN/ STUFF

One size won't fit all, says city councillor Diane Calvert, a Khandallah resident. "Not everyone wants to live in high-density areas. We need to offer people choice."

The forum report says: "Wellington needs affordable housing examples that are positive to get community support and deal with Nimbys."

But Wayne Newman, treasurer of the Creswick Valley Residents' Association, which represents Northland and parts of Wilton and Karori, said all residents were Nimbys at heart.

They would have concerns about the effects of higher-density housing, and taller buildings, on character, sunlight, parking and infrastructure, especially in Northland with its narrow streets and tightly packed, hill-bound sections.

Homes in Khandallah can be only 8m high at present, and only 35 per cent of a site can be built on. But if the suburb ...
MAARTEN HOLL/FAIRFAX NZ

Homes in Khandallah can be only 8m high at present, and only 35 per cent of a site can be built on. But if the suburb had to adopt inner-city rules, homes could rise to 12m, and 50 per cent of the site could be covered.

The council should look first at better utilising flat land for residential use, especially around Te Aro in the inner city, he said.

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The forum suggests making the height and density controls in outer residential areas – currently 8m in height, and 35 per cent site coverage – the same as in the inner residential area, where they are 12m, and 50 per cent site coverage.

A report with a summary of the recommendations says existing infill controls in the outer residential area should be relaxed to allow for more housing development, and suggests on-site parking requirements should be reduced in medium-density areas that are close to public transport.

Island Bay is another suburb that could get the choice as to whether it wants to increase its building height controls.
ROSS GIBLIN/ FAIRFAX NZ

Island Bay is another suburb that could get the choice as to whether it wants to increase its building height controls.

It costs about $30,000 in lost development rights and construction costs to provide an on-site car park, the documents say.

Deputy mayor Paul Eagle, who is also chairman of the Housing Task Force, said that, if the recommendations were included in the final Task Force report, they would have to be area-dependent and based on infrastructure.

"Councillors will need to talk about adopting it on the basis of how it could be used on a suburb by suburb basis. We would need to do some work and look at where it would be appropriate."

Councillor Diane Calvert, who lives in Khandallah, said any solution could not adopt a one-size-fits-all approach.

"While there is a need for intensification, not everyone wants to live in high-density areas. We need to offer people choice."

Wellington engineer and developer Maurice Clark said the only way was up. "We have got to build up. There is so little land, we can't spread out."

First Retail Group managing director Chris Wilkinson said intensification was the answer to helping regenerate treasured areas and help them to develop.

He was working on several projects in Auckland's urban centres, including areas of planned intensification and gentrification, such as the Dominion Road corridor.

"Interestingly, these developments recognise contemporary living doesn't rely on residents owning their own vehicles, and are planned to leverage good and increasing public transport networks."

CONCERNS OVER RENTAL WARRANTS OF FITNESS

The Housing Forum looked at problems with implementing a rental Warrant of Fitness scheme to tackle the capital's cold, damp and mouldy rental stock.  

The report noted that, while there were responsible landlords, there were some who would not upgrade their properties unless forced to.

But the forum identified unintended consequences of WoF regulations, such as the potential for landlords to sell rentals back to private owner/occupiers, further depleting rental stock.

Concerns were also raised about the cost being passed on to tenants in higher rents.

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS:

* The need for an affordable housing policy that defines what is meant by affordable housing.

* Financial incentives for affordable, high-quality development.

* Investigate systems that may help speed up development processes.

* Access to easily developable parcels of land owned by the Crown and the council.

* Undertake stocktake and analysis of all vacant land, or land suitable for development.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

* June 14: Mayor's Housing Task force discusses the suggestions, and picks which recommendations to include in its final report.
* June 27: Councillors attend a workshop to consider the final recommendations.
* August 24: Councillors vote on final report.
* Any recommendations accepted by the council will be considered in the Long-Term Plan.

 - Stuff

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