Urban planners to review housing crisis, climate challenges

About 1000 urban planners will gather in Christchurch next year to discuss some of the country's biggest challenges, including housing affordability and climate change.

Soaring house prices, driven in part by record-low interest rates, have left property ownership out of reach for many first-time home buyers and low-income earners.

The average Auckland house now costs $1.48 million, up 28 percent in the last 12 months.

New Zealand Planning Institute chief executive David Curtis said efforts to tackle housing affordability required strategic thinking, creative ideas and new philosophies.

"We need to deliver what society wants, which requires planners to consider more than just current market forces, and that involves increased community engagement and inclusion."

Bipartisan legislation passed in Parliament this month in favour of housing densification, to counter urban sprawl and boost supply by up to 105,000 new homes in the next eight years.

Curtis said he supported the intent of the legislation, which lets councils allow up to three, three-storey houses on most sections in big cities - Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton, Tauranga and Christchurch - without a resource consent.

"There is a risk that there could be some poor housing outcomes, but equally, there could be some really good housing outcomes.

"Urban sprawl is not the answer. We cannot just keep growing our cities bigger and bigger and bigger.

"It's not sustainable."

The Human Rights Commission is holding an inquiry into the right to a decent home, as a result of the number of people still living in degrading, unaffordable, and unhealthy conditions. The commission has called for more Government accountability on efforts to address the crisis, including establishing an independent body to monitor politicians' progress on housing policies.

Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt.
Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt. Photo credit: File

Curtis said planners would also discuss the pace of the Resource Management Act reform at their March conference.

"The levels of reform we're currently facing as an industry means there's a lot of uncertainty and planners are under increasing pressure.

"We need to do it, but we need to ensure we do it well."

Keynote speakers will include Laurie Johnson from the California Earthquake Authority and California Wildfire Fund and Brisbane City Council chief planner Dyan Currie.