Mission impossible: a solution to the Auckland housing crisis?

In response to the overwhelming housing challenges facing Auckland, Mayor Phil Goff has assembled a ‘Housing Taskforce’ with a mission to:

  1. Identify constraints to building more homes in Auckland at a pace which keeps up with the demand of the rising population; and
  2. Make recommendations to overcome those barriers, with a focus on increasing housing supply, as opposed to managing housing demand.

Taskforce members included Auckland Council and Auckland Transport, the Ministry for Environment, BNZ, Fletcher Construction, and Master Builders. In June, the Taskforce released a report of its findings, making recommendations on three key areas:

  1. Remove impediments to the construction sector developing at scale, including identifying investors who can build through the ‘dips’ to lift construction in the ‘peaks’;
  2. Unlock the availability of land with appropriate zoning and infrastructure, at the right price, to enable more development, faster; and
  3. Deliver efficient and certain planning, consenting, and risk management to reduce costs, enable innovation in construction and delivery, and create communities with high quality build and urban form outcomes.

For each category, the report identifies a mix of tactical and strategic interventions. Implementation of these interventions will require collaboration with Auckland Council and central government, as well as major land owners and developers.

Most relevant to the resource management community are those interventions recommended in relation to the third category; enabling efficiency and innovation in consenting and risk management. The report endorsed the ‘consenting made easy’ models which are currently being trialled by the Council and suggested that these are implemented more widely. These include:

  1. an easier, faster and more consistent consenting process that is focused on enabling online applications and case management;
  2. online tools which can check whether a consent is necessary and calculate deposits; and
  3. a single point of contact for applicants.

The report considers a change in consenting culture is necessary and this must be driven by appropriate leadership, supported by experienced consent processing staff. Ensuring availability of staff may require working with tertiary providers to create a pipeline of qualified people to meet continuing consenting needs.

The report identified legislation and policy that requires review including the Building Code, the Unit Titles Act and resource management legislation. This included a suggestion that a holistic review of resource management legislation is undertaken. These recommendations stem from an interesting suggestion that new building warranty and insurance schemes should be investigated. It was suggested that these would be part of a quality assurance process that would ultimately reduce Council liability for buildings: a response to the leaky building disaster, which saw Council in the position of having to compensate homeowners, with some litigation still ongoing.

Although the report is not binding, it does have the Mayor’s endorsement. Therefore, it seems likely that where possible, Auckland Council will seek to implement a number of the recommendations. Those that relate to the delivery of efficient planning and consenting will be welcomed by developers, consultants and lawyers alike. It remains to be seen if those initiatives translate to the ‘Taskforce’ vision of ‘consenting made easy’ – it seems to us to have a considerable way to go.  

The Taskforce's full report can be viewed here

Posted on July 24, 2017 .