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House-rule change threatens pair's dream

DANIEL ADAMS
Last updated 05:00 27/11/2012
Andy and Anna Livingstone
Ben Curran/Fairfax NZ

Not home and hosed: Andy and Anna Livingstone are forking out hundreds of dollars daily while grappling with unexpected red tape.

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A Hamilton couple caught out by new council building rules are waiting to find out whether their family-home dreams are about to be smashed.

Andy and Anna Livingstone were married this year and thought their Rototuna section at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac would be the ideal place to build their first home together - and start thinking about having children

But a new rule change which caught their builder - and many others in the industry - unawares has forced them to jump through red tape, and is costing them thousands of dollars extra.

The new rules prohibit the garage being set forward of living areas, require at least one window and the front door to face the street, and also stipulate clear visibility be maintained between the house and the road.

The changes are aimed at cutting down crime by improving urban design, but builders say they are struggling to design houses that will comply.

Mr Livingstone said that, by the time they learned of the rule change, their finance was drawn down, and they were now faced with a $2000 bill for resource consents and hundreds of dollars a day in extra interest costs.

The couple bought the section, created in 2006, from an architect who had designed a house to suit it and included his building plans in the deal.

"The plans went into council on the 8th of this month, and on the 12th the builder came to me, cap in hand, saying he'd just found out something rather unfortunate - the rules had changed. He hadn't known anything, and further afield people in the Master Builders Association hadn't either."

Mr Livingstone said the money that had been drawn down was costing hundreds of dollars a day in interest.

"To have this lumped on us is stress we don't need. We should be worrying about what colours to paint the walls, and thinking about moving in and starting a family, not whether our dreams are about to be smashed."

Applying the new rules to sections created without them in mind did not make sense, and council should not apply them retrospectively, he said.

The couple's builder, Urban Residential Developments director Daniel Klinkenberg, was wary of commenting while consent was pending, but admitted he was frustrated at the way the new rule was implemented.

"If council are saying [the building industry] should have known about this from public notices, I've spoken to several guys in the building unit and they didn't know anything about it either.

"All our standard plans, we won't be able to use because of this and there'll be a ton of others in the same situation."

Linden Homes' Grant James said his firm, "not big players" at about half-a-dozen homes built each year, was working with a client in the Eaton Estate subdivision in similar straits.

He said council's public safety intentions were flawed. "Architects achieve that, people achieve that." If his clients' resource consent application was rejected, he said, they would walk away.

But the council yesterday argued that garages could still be placed at the front of sections, as long as they did not dominate the site.

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"It is internationally accepted that how buildings relate to a street can have a major bearing on people's perception of the area's safety. Quality urban design, therefore, can reduce the incident and fear of crime."

Proposed district plan submissions open on December 10.

NEW RULES

The front wall of all accessory buildings, including car ports and garages, must not be forward of the front building line of the house.

Landscaping and planting of the front setback must allow visibility between the house and the road.

At least one habitable room must have a clear-glazed window facing the road, and the front door must face the road.

- Waikato Times

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