Housing infrastructure loan 'worse than nothing'
OPINION: Finance Minister Steven Joyce and mayor Phil Goff announced $300 million of the Housing Infrastructure Fund would be used in Auckland for 10,500 new homes in north-west Auckland. Good right?
Well I would call it one of the rare cases of doing worse than nothing.
Mayor Goff said: "Auckland's HIF bid focused on a small number of highly development ready areas where funding would accelerate priority projects and unlock housing growth quickly."
That is all very well. The problem is north-west Auckland, apart from Hobsonville Point, I would not call "ready".
When the Special Housing Areas (SHA) were selected, debate raged between the councillors of the time (in 2014) that the north-west was not infrastructure ready to have SHA status applied.
However, the SHA status was applied to several areas of north-west Auckland by the Government and several years later it was observed by one Auckland tweeter about the Redhills SHA: "One of the areas of new housing 'announced' today (the Joyce/Goff announcement) was announced by government as an SHA back in September 2014. Zero houses so far."
Now this extra $300m has been loaned to Auckland Council in order to get the Redhills Special Housing Area infrastructure ready when it was clearly not in the first place.
To add further woes the north-west has no major employment complexes like the city centre, or South Auckland's Manukau, Wiri, the airport or East Tamaki - meaning the north-west is stuck with commuting down the Northwestern Motorway to work.
Remember also, there is no Northwestern Busway either. So the 10,500 new homes - and approximately 31,500 new residents - will contribute to the congestion on the motorway.
Simply put the $300m should have been used elsewhere, that elsewhere being the South Auckland Special Housing Areas.
South Auckland has several large scale SHAs in various stages of development. Most of South Auckland's SHAs are infrastructure ready through either tapping into existing infrastructure that has capacity or new infrastructure being built, like the Artillery Drive stormwater tunnel.
This includes access to transit networks like the Southern (rail) Line or frequent buses to get to and from work.
South Auckland also has several major commercial and industrial employment complexes expanding, meaning new jobs are also being created at the same time new housing is going in.
This lessens the chance of long distance commuting and even if you do have to commute to the city centre the rail network is available - unlike Redhills.
This means a proper infrastructure fund, when applied to the south, would allow more connections to the existing infrastructure like a new rail station in Drury. And it could expand the capacity of the existing infrastructure as well.
New infrastructure would need to be built, but not as quickly as the north-west in which you have to build from scratch from the get-go.
But is $300m enough anyway?
No. I estimate $4.25 billion is needed over seven years to both get the new state housing built, and supporting infrastructure in place if we are to get on top of Auckland's housing and infrastructure deficits.
Should the north-west miss out while the south should go first?
Far from it! Putting the south first allows the north-west to get up to infrastructure and employment/amenity ready status.
And south goes first with its already existing infrastructure and employment complexes and amenities nearby.
It is all about trying to get the best bang for your buck.
Commentator Ben Ross has a blog called Talking Southern Auckland where Auckland issues with an infrastructure focus are discussed. Head to www.voakl.net to check it out.