Wellington will fall short of new housing target

The target of 1000 new homes in a year has proved too tough for Wellington, with the city council revealing it will probably fall well short of the target.

With just 366 new homes and sections consented in the first half of the financial year, the final tally by July 1 is projected to be 732 – missing out on the target by more than 25 per cent – a report going to the council's transport and urban development committee on Thursday warns.

The expected final number of consents is in line with how many were typically issued before the ambitious target was set as part of the Wellington Housing Accord signed with the Government last year.

The accord is designed to increase the number of new houses coming on to the market. The council is able to offer incentives to developers to build houses, and it can also create "special housing areas" with fast- tracked consenting conditions, no public notification and limited appeal rights.

The Government can also override the council and declare special housing areas without agreement. Auckland and Christchurch already have similar accords.

The accord sets a target of 1000 for the first year, rising to 1500 a year for the following four years, totalling 7000 houses in five years.

The targets are "ambitious", the report says, but there are signs the market is poised to improve.

"Residential development in the city is steady but is still recovering from the global financial crisis. Whilst the accord targets are ambitious there are encouraging signs that the residential development sector in the city is positioned for a period of increased activity."

Warren Ulusele, city planning and design manager, said it was always recognised that the goals were "stretch targets" and the focus in year one was putting in place special housing areas and incentives that would make it easier for houses to be built in the following years.

Then it would be up to developers to take up the incentives, he said.

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"It's not unexpected ... [the targets] were always ambitious but it will depend on the success of these incentives and whether landowners want to take advantage of that."

There were discussions happening with landowners at present, which could lead to further developments, he said.

Committee chairman Andy Foster said the amount of development this year was in line with what would have occurred without the accord. However, it was a five-year agreement and, given the time involved in identifying and creating special housing areas, there was always going to be a bit of lead-in time.

"It will take some time for the market to respond."

The aim was to help increase the amount of housing supply in the market, although several councillors were concerned that the targets were too ambitious, with the market more likely to drive new builds than any incentives offered by the council, he said.

 - Stuff

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