Govt partners back housing law changes

Govt partners back housing law changes

With the average house prices in Auckland topping the million dollar mark, the Government will urgently push through legislation in a single day in order to have it in place for a "smooth transition" to the Auckland Unitary Plan.

Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith says if the extension of the existing laws isn't in place, it'll disrupt the changes in Auckland Council's wide-ranging blueprint for housing and development. 

The changes must be in force by September 16.

The extension directly affects eight special housing areas in Auckland, which could hold around 7900 homes, and are in limbo because of the Unitary Plan.

It acts as a placeholder to fill the time lag until the Government's National Policy Statement on Urban Development Capacity and other district plans such as the Unitary Plan come into force.

It also plans to extend the life of the Special Housing Area (SHA) legislation around the country by another three years because of "renewed interest" in the policy.

Changes to the SHA and Housing Accords would also put pressure on land owners to take up the option within a year by lodging the relevant consents for development.

It also gets rid of "uncertainty" around approved housing developments under the Housing Act and the offer-back provisions in the Public Works Act.

United Future leader Peter Dunne says he'll back the changes, but has renewed his want of a national housing summit to come up with a "long-term work plan" for New Zealand.

"This issue will continue to be affected by short-term solutions as provided in the Bill if we cannot develop a long-term strategy that has the input of all major stakeholders in the housing sector," he says.

"That is why a housing summit that brings together all the interested and relevant parties is well overdue."

ACT Party leader David Seymour also says he'll support the legislation as a "tiny step in the right direction", but doesn't believe it will do anything for housing supply.

"Special Housing Areas make easy photo-ops, but are little more than ad-hoc tinkering," says Mr Seymour.

"Rather than having bureaucrats set aside particular patches of land for intensification, the minister could simplify land use regulations across Auckland."

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says the Bill is a "panic measure by a minister not on top of his portfolio".

He believes it'll just speed up the sell-off of state house land with "no genuine plan" to build more state homes.

The party will oppose the Bill.

The Green Party has also rejected Dr Smith's "hurried and inadequate" legislation which it says won't fix the problem of an undersupply of affordable houses.

"The Government always knew the Special Housing Areas (SHAs) were going to expire, so there’s no good reason they had to wait this long and then go into parliamentary urgency to do something about that.

"We accept that there are issues around eight specific pieces of land in SHAs that are halfway through the consent and planning process, but Nick Smith is using that to push through all sorts of other changes to the law that need more scrutiny," co-leader Metiria Turei says.

The Unitary Plan was released in July and determines what and where things can be built for the next decade.

Among a trove of recommendations, it said 422,000 houses were needed by 2040.