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Will Thresher muses on transport and other issues

  • 4 April 2017
  • Author: Will Thresher
  • Number of views: 80
  • 0 Comments
Will Thresher muses on transport and other issues
A few things that caught my interest over the last week or so. 
 
Bob Dey provided a heads up on the OECD’s state of the (environmental) nation review 
 
Having teased with this summary comment on the Urban Planning findings:
•         “broadening the scope of the national policy statement on urban development capacity to encourage good urban design outcomes & principles for sustainable urban development, …”
 
I was compelled to take a closer look at the document itself. The report discussions dense v. compact … and infrastructure ... (and urban planning a little bit).
 
It says: The review also looks at New Zealand’s fast-growing cities and suggests that a simpler urban planning system, less restrictive land-use regulations and better co-ordination between land, transport and infrastructure planning could help ease the pressure.
 
All of which made me curious - how were we doing with recent transport and infrastructure and planning - transport infrastructure in particular? 
 
A clutch of Transportblog stories helped enlighten me. 
 
On the subject of motorway infrastructure the Waterview tunnels shortly come into service however news that they will need light controls was a surprise , while perhaps the opportunity missed to provide continuous busways along SH16 was more predictable. Having said that, the urgent need for unanticipated SH20 widenings and local road improvements is another cause for at least mild astonishment - comments about the basis of running cost comparisons also make interesting reading. 
 
Miscalculations appear not to be limited to Auckland with Tauranga’s TEL provoking different questions.
 
On the enthusiastic adoption of (public) transport infrastructures (once provided) Auckland February public transport ridership is increasing beyond an average 200,000 bus and 70,000 rail boardings per day . How has your Mad March been?
 
What have we learned? Thinking about SH16 it has to be a concern if public transport connections are not optimised or created when transport links are at the planning stage. Looking at you NCI  and you EWL .
 
Good news that the need for a City Centre-Airport transit connection is

Linking houses prices to income, forever!

Community Land Trusts, a collaboration to help deal with the housing crisis?

  • 25 January 2017
  • Author: Duncan Ecob
  • Number of views: 370
  • 0 Comments
The approach to the Auckland housing crisis will need a variety of methods to be resolved.  Whilst most will look to the private and government sectors to supply new homes to meet the demand there is a ‘Third Sector’ approach that has its roots in the 1960’s American civil right movement, Community Land Trusts, (CLT).  In the  USA the largest CLT has over 2000 homes and over the last decade CLTs has found increasing and popular support in the UK. 

CLT’s are set up and run by the community with the (UK) legal definition1

…. to further the social, economic and environmental interests of their communities, and be democratically accountable to their communities’  

These objectives are very similar to those of many levels local authorities and are often seen as a community vehicle to deliver affordable homes.  One of the strengths of the CLTs is that they are able to deliver affordable homes in perpetuity by linking the sale price to the local wage level and selling them at a much lower level than the local market price.  A condition of the sale is that any future sale price remains pegged to local earnings, forgoing the potential windfalls of the property lottery.  This is very different to the ‘right to buy’ of local authority housing which removes the bought property from the affordable and social housing markets.

How they can sell homes at a “wage related affordable cost” is related to the acquisition of the land at low to zero cost.   The land that CLTs use for development is surplus Local Authority or  government land  which is often sold to help ‘ balance the books’.  But the authorities are not obliged to sell to the highest bidder rather   to dispose of their land on the basis of the “best consideration” reasonably obtainable, which should take into account long-term value. Social and economic benefits can justify the sale of land below market price –  by working with CLT’s the benefits for the area in the long-term often outweigh cash raised upfront.

Catherine Harrington is the director of the UK’s  National Community Land Trust Network and says

“People are demanding more of a say about what regeneration looks like, instead of sitting back and being told what the future of their area is going to be,” she adds.

“It’s about changing the narrative of housing: building homes rather than investment units; having security and stability in a particular place, rather than being forced to move every six months; and mobilising popular support for development.”

The nature and purpose of CLTs can be hard to generalise because they are each responding to the specific local housing need in their respective areas, they are community led and operated so address particular community needs and aspirations.   A few examples include some set up with the following objectives

 

Special Housing Areas - Success or Failure?

Ree Anderson guest speaker at the UDF AGM

  • 10 October 2016
  • Author: Duncan Ecob
  • Number of views: 822
  • 0 Comments
Special Housing Areas - Success or Failure?
Ree Anderson at the UDF AGM (29Sept2016)
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

UDF opposes Minimum Parking Requirements in Town Centres

  • 7 October 2016
  • Author: John Mackay
  • Number of views: 658
  • 0 Comments
UDF opposes Minimum Parking Requirements in Town Centres

The Urban Design Forum has submitted in opposition to an Appeal by the supermarket chains and other “big box” who are retailers seeking to re-impose Minimum Parking Requirements on the town centres that they regularly abandon when they set up, for instance, a new PaknSave on a nearby traffic arterial.  


The “Key Retail” Group’s appeal was only possible under the Auckland Unitary Plan legislation because the Council (the respondent) chose to stick with their originally notified intention to dispense with minimum parking requirements, despite the Hearing Panel’s recommendation that the requirements be re-instated for retail and commercial floorspace.   The Panel had been persuaded by the “Key Retail” Group that their precious carparks would be over-run by motorists, who would then wander down the main street to spend their money at a café which had no obligation to build carparks of its own.  

We believe that the appeal is not about managing their carparks - it’s about preserving the competitive advantage for their car-based development model over traditional (and stagnating) mainstreet centres. Removing the requirement to provide parking in centres could well be the game-breaker that enables intensive redevelopment with mixed-use residential to start happening.  That’s more likely to be what the “Key Retail” Group are worried about, rather than managing their carparks against people who may want to do some comparison shopping. 

We opposed the Appeal on the basis that “the imposition of Minimum Parking Requirements imposes unnecessary costs on developers, results in poor design outcomes, and is contrary to the principles of a free market.”  In the case of many mainstreet properties, also, it is physically impossible to meet the parking requirements because traffic geometry doesn’t fit within the dimensions or shape.  

We lodged as a s274 party to the Appeals in association with the NZIA and Generation Zero.  The risks are zero, because our position is not as extreme as the respondent Auckland Council, who are additionally trying to impose maximum parking requirements.  We just want to leave it to the market :-) 

A Simple Plan?

  • 2 August 2016
  • Author: Graeme Scott
  • Number of views: 1024
  • 0 Comments
A Simple Plan?
The Auckland Unitary Plan Independent Hearings Panel’s recommendations to Auckland Council are clear, and as simple as they could be following the two-plus years of submissions/mediations/expert conferences and hearings involving almost everyone in Auckland’s design and planning community.  

Gone are the peripheral concerns around matters that are, or should be, dealt with by other regulations, such as dwelling and room sizes, ceiling heights, window sizes and insulation standards which, in the Panel’s view, are Building Code matters.  Arguments around socially aspirational outcomes (affordable housing, universal access) have been swept aside. The much debated rural-urban-boundary, following agreement by our national politicians that it’s a bad idea, has been predictably neutralised as an issue, although it’s still there in name.  Gone are the so-called urban design rules on such matters as garage door setbacks, windows to the street and front fence heights.  Requirements for parking on private land are, thankfully, mostly gone.

So, a simple plan; a plan that is, as they say, focussed on outcomes and integrated both vertically and horizontally.  By way of example, in the residential rules (the main area of my involvement), the outlook requirements from habitable rooms are now common to all the main zones, and I never did understand why, in the originally proposed plan, the mixed housing zones had yards and height-in-relation-to boundary-controls, while the terrace house and apartment zone had stepped setback dimensions to achieve much the same end.  All these zones now have a common set of rules, covering such matters as coverage, building separation, outdoor living and fences.

The Panel has taken the Auckland Plan very seriously, and has modelled their recommended plan on the principles set out in the 2010 document.  But more than that, it has actually delivered on the compact city vision, with almost 60% of the planned 422,000 dwellings over the next 30 years to be located inside the 2010 Metropolitan Urban Limit.  Some of the increase in the planned numbers above the originally proposed 212,000 came from mediated changes to the zone rules during the hearings process (it went up to around 296,000 as a result), but the huge increase to the present number appears to be largely a result of applying the zones differently on the maps.  Density around centres and transport corridors has been emphasised.

So this is the good news, but the other part of the Auckland Plan’s vision for the quality compact urban form is the “quality” part, and this is where the recommended plan encounters some difficulty.  While “recognising that the need to achieve a quality design is increasingly important as the scale of development increases”, the Panel’s report goes on to say “good design is based on principles rather than rules. Mere reference to good design or the listing of preferred design principles is ill-suited to a regulatory framework which imposes binary ‘grant/decline’ outcomes. Discretionary decision-making must be exercised on the basis of relevant and clear objectives, policies and assessment criteria rather than on subjective preferences”.

Auckland Council’s brave attempt to start to address this issue through the mandatory provision of Design Statements has been ruled out as being costly and ineffective, but there’s little on offer as a replacement, and no mention of peer design review which has proved so successful at Hobsonville Point, for instance.

Perhaps it’s unrealistic to expect an RMA plan to deliver
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