Red-tape designs to hike prices

DANIEL ADAMS AND JONATHAN CARSON
Last updated 05:00 26/11/2012

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Section buyers looking to build in Rototuna are finding it's harder to make their dream homes a reality as they struggle to design houses within new rules.

And there are fears that the changes, introduced by Hamilton City Council, could bump up the cost of buying a section, and therefore the cost of building a house, by up to $15,000.

The new rule, already being applied at three Rototuna subdivisions - Eton, Glaisdale and The Meadows - stipulates that the garage must be built at the back of the house so that living areas are closer to the street.

The changes are aimed at cutting down crime and improving urban design, but builders say they are struggling to design houses that comply with the new regulations.

Hamilton builder Alex Burns, who has 35 years experience in the industry, said the new requirements could drive up the cost of sections.

"I've been trying to design a house for a section in The Meadows, which is under this new regime, and we've had a lot of difficulty getting something that we know clients will buy and that fits on the sections, because at the moment the sections are all narrow and long."

He said sections needed to be wider and shallower in order to bring the lived-in areas of the house closer to the street.

This would result in fewer sections fitting on each hectare of land, meaning more roads and higher prices, Mr Burns said.

"It will probably push the cost of a section up $12-$15,000 - unless some architects have got some really wizard ways of fitting houses that people will buy on these existing sections."

Planners and surveyors CKL planning manager Bevan Houlbrooke said the changes will be introduced city-wide if, and when, the proposed district plan is adopted.

"They won't have legal weight for some time in other parts of the city but effectively council is enforcing it now in Rototuna."

He said many builders were having problems with the new requirements.

"These sections were designed when these rules didn't apply. To comply you'd probably have made sections wider, to put the garage to the rear."

Council was trying to align with urban design principles, which use planning rules to reduce crime by stopping "disengagement" from the street, he said.

City environments general manager Brian Croad said the changes were still bedding in, and council was intent on improving Hamilton's urban design.

"What's going to be required is a move away from the standard plans that a lot of builders have, and they need to take into account those design objectives council wants to achieve. I accept there'll be changes required to comply.

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"But there are provisions to apply to keep your fences up, and keep your garage forward of the dwelling, you just have to go through a process to prove that an alternative is too difficult to achieve. There was too much of houses closing themselves off to the street and alienating their public space."

Mr Burns said council's urban design plans were "very admirable" but doubted whether they reflected homeowners' best interests.

"I think Kiwis, if you look around the subdivisions, seem to value their privacy. They all build fences around them. They're not going to be too happy about having lounges and bedrooms five metres off the footpath."

Council will take submissions on the changes next month.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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