Ree Anderson at the UDF AGM
When Did the Auckland Housing Crisis Start?
..... was the opening questions from Ree Anderson, the previous head of Auckland Council’s, Housing Project Office (HPO) when she addressed the Urban Design Forum. Over an all too brief, 40 minutes Ree explored the SHA, its successes and the lessons learned, leading to many questions and opinions from the floor at its conclusion.
Ree gave insight into how the Council took the initiative in developing the approach to deal with the planning system’s poor decision process through the setting up of the HPO. This was in response to the Housing Accord and Special Housing Areas Act (HASHAA) which intended to speed the delivery of new housing through an integrated planning response. The HPO was led by Planners, coordinating the inputs from all the stakeholders involved in the Plan Variations and resource consent applications under the HASHA. These stakeholders include those Council Controlled Organisations (CCO's) such as Auckland Transport, Parks and Stormwater (now known as Happy Water, sorry, Healthy Water). The intention of the HPO was that the process was led by Planners with an outcomes focus, not a rigid approach to meet rules. The Planner was empowered to use judgement in achieving a positive outcome to address the housing crisis that Auckland is facing. Bringing in the CCOs who are responsible for the 'hard' infrastructure to enable development meant that everyone had a say, but the final decision was a balanced view of the Planner.
This was considered to be one of the key successes of the HPO although it wasn't tested robustly at the evening. Another key success was the integration of infrastructure and for this to be planned as a response to the emerging SHAs.
Lessons learned ranged from the need to manage expectations, especially with the Press, through to the fixed end-date of the HASHA legislation. The HPO could assist in delivering the land and boost opportunity but there is a construction industry that has to deliver on the ground and this needs further planning and capacity building from the private sector. This in turn lead to discussion on the need for central government to have social housing programmes that would give certainty to the construction industry and its supply chain outside the ‘boom' years . The intent to cease the HASHAA at the time that the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan was adopted was thrown a curve ball by the appeals against the Plan, with the result that the legislation has been extended until late December 2016, but no further.
Further questions remained around how the up-lift of land value can be captured through zoning changes for the benefit of further investment in infrastructure, and the role of the structure plan. Who leads the structure plan when landowners are focused on house numbers (the economic driver) and not the social, open space and transport infrastructure which add real value? Social infrastructure appears to be a major gap in much planning: who will provide health, education and community facilities seems to be an issue few are willing to tackle.
In all it was an enlightening evening; Ree has an abundance of experience which was eloquently shared and raised further questions for the Forum to discuss