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More on Wynyard Quarter housing

As Matt wrote on Saturday, the Auckland Council is going to be partnering with Willis Bond & Co on new homes at Wynyard Quarter. I thought I’d look at a couple of other interesting aspects of the announcement.

Bob Dey has written some good commentary here, including an interview with the managing director of Willis Bond & Co, Mark McGuinness.  Bob notes that there’s a range of housing typologies, from apartments all the way down to (potentially) duplexes, with the overall development being medium density, and homes of up to four bedrooms. That’s a positive step, in a city centre which still has too few larger, family-sized dwellings.

Wynyard Quarter Residential 1

Parking provision is kept fairly low, averaging 1.2 spaces per dwelling, although I’m not quite sure if this refers to Willis Bond’s concepts or the maximum planning ratios for the site. As Mark McGuinness told Bob Dey,

“Most people in the Wynyard Quarter will not need 2 cars all the time. It’s one of those places where you can genuinely walk. If you have that amenity, walking can become quite addictive – I’d use a car 2 days/week now.

“Over time, people will get weaned off car ownership. You need housing in the right location, amenity around it, which the Wynyard Quarter has, and you need reasonable proximity to work, which the quarter delivers like very [missing word here?] places do.”

It’s great to hear that kind of thing coming from a business leader, especially that first paragraph. Of course, 1.2 cars per home is probably more than we’d like to see, and it’s higher than average for the city centre, but the homes will probably be targeted more towards families with kids, and they’ll be larger than typical apartments. There may also be a bit of against-the-flow commuting. No doubt the market will dictate where things end up, and perhaps we’ll see less than 1.2 cars per home when everything’s complete. By comparison, the nearby Beaumont Quarter seems to be at around 1.3 cars per home, based on 2013 census data.

Given that the Auckland Council will retain ownership of the land under these new homes,  I’m pleased that they’ll allow the ground rent to be paid up front, reducing the uncertainty around rent reviews down the track. I wrote a bit more about this in RCG’s newsletter, here, and also noted:

Another innovation is that carparks in the Wynyard Quarter residential area won’t be associated with individual apartments. They’ll be owned by the body corporate, and presumably rented out to the residents at whatever they’re are willing to pay. As Bob Dey points out, this avoids the problem of spaces being wasted because the owner doesn’t actually need them, and the hassle in trying to buy or sell them separately. The end result is that fewer parking spaces should be needed, and this could potentially bring costs down.

There will be around 500-600 homes built as part of this development agreement. By comparison, there are around 375 in the Viaduct Harbour, and 230 in Lighter Quay (which will eventually blend into Wynyard Quarter to some extent). That’s probably a bit lower than envisaged in the council’s Waterfront Plan, which targets “a residential population of 2,500–4,000″ in the long term. However, there will probably be some other homes built as Wynyard continues to develop – Waterfront Auckland refer to this agreement as “the first residential precinct in Auckland’s revitalised Wynyard Quarter”.

In my opinion, the things that make Wynyard such an appealing place are its waterfront location and its public spaces. Those are already things that draw tens of thousands of people. Add to this a pretty significant workforce – which could be 12,000 to 15,000 in the long term – and the other drawcards still to be built, such as the 5-star hotel, the theatre, the park at the northern point, and these homes don’t have too much work to do, in terms of activating or anchoring the area. They can just be great places to live, which it looks like they will be.

37 comments to More on Wynyard Quarter housing

  • Steve D

    > Given that the Auckland Council will retain ownership of the land under these new homes,

    (Facepalm). It’s not like AC are planning to swoop in and tear the buildings down again in the future, so why not sell the land, too? Leasehold doesn’t work out well for anyone, unless you’ve got really long term plans to do something else with the site. Which doesn’t apply to the council, who A. in a democracy can never plan more than a few years ahead but B. can always just buy land if they need it.

    Contrarily, if AC are really that dead set on keeping long-term control of the area, they’d be better off renting the apartments out normally rather than “selling” part of them.

    • Steve D

      Seriously, it’s a 125-year term, prepaid. Why not just sell the land properly?

      It’s crazy this attachment people have to trying to control the future from beyond the grave. Let people in 2139 do what they want to do, instead of dicking them around with leases. Same thing with Britomart. (Same thing with Hong Kong, for that matter).

      • Loraxus

        Presumably, because as the LAND OWNER they have a much stronger say on what happens on the land than as “just Council”?

        Don’t worry, the next neo-liberal wave may well force Council to sell off any “non-essential” property for a song, the way recent governments have been going.

        • Steve D

          Not so – as land owner, they get no extra say about anything until 2139 or whenever it is that the lease expires. (Well, except for whatever conditions they put in the lease – but given that the building’s already going to be built, those conditions aren’t going to be very meaningful. And those conditions could be done as covenants or easements anyway).

      • Frank McRae

        Is the land leasehold due to restrictions on selling reclaimed land into private ownership? Perhaps because of potential Maori claims on the reclaimed land?

        I don’t really see how it is an issue for anyone other than apartment buyers, and even then it seems like the 125 year lease paid up front is pretty close to freehold for most purposes.

        • Steve D

          Restrictions on selling reclaimed land into private ownership? There’s already lots of reclaimed land that’s in private hands: Auckland Airport, the Port of Tauranga, central Auckland north of Fort Street, and half of downtown Wellington, to name four. You are right, and there might be treaty claims, but I’d thought that all the historic claims in Auckland were resolved?

          A 125-year prepaid term is certainly better than most leasehold deals, but becomes somewhat pointless. It doesn’t much affect anyone who’s an adult today, but it will cause uncertainty and unnecessary work for people 100 years from now, for no gain to anyone. If you go too far, with complex, multi-century tangles of leases, you get a lawyer’s paradise like the UK: there’s no need to import that here.

          • Steve D

            The third or so of Wynyard that’s south of Pakenham Street is actually already privately owned, FWIW.

    • Neil

      Leasehold will be a major negative for potential buyers. Think what a disaster Beaumont Quarter has been for owners. With no school for many miles, I doubt if many families with school aged children will be interested. Council talk of 4,000 is fantasy.

      • Linz

        Then don’t buy one. Not compulsory.

        • Steve D

          Yet as residents of Auckland, we’re also “The Council” that’s selling the apartments. So we have an interest there. Since we have to sell them at a discount to make up for the disadvantages of leasehold, we’re getting a worse deal than we would have by renting them or selling them properly.

      • John Polkinghorne

        Freemans Bay School is just a kilometre away – pretty good really. Ponsonby Intermediate, Auckland Girls Grammar, St Paul’s and St Mary’s all within three km. Otherwise I would have had no hesitation in linking back to my earlier post on the lack of schools around the city centre! http://transportblog.co.nz/2013/09/13/where-do-the-children-play/

        • grantb

          Was going to say something similar. My kids currently go to Carmel, but St Mary’s is an easy walk from Wynyard so a family house would work out fine for me as far as schooling goes.

          The big selling point is of course the convenience of inner city(ish) living. There are link buses running past every 10 minutes which would a better option than school buses, I could walk to work (and the kids to High School if they didn’t want to take a bus). My wife would have to commute using a car, but counter-flow to the Shore would be easier than most (and we are a one-car family anyway).

          Quite appealing (walk to bars/restaurants etc, shopping at Victoria park supermarket), but should imagine they will be very expensive. Only issue would be the family dog; walking in the park is fine, but without a backyard (aka the dog toilet) then things could get messy.

      • Wow, I wish my suburban schools had been been so close! I had to walk about 3km to primary school and college was further again.

  • Loraxus

    The renting the car parks out is good. Even the first version of the unitary plan was clearly written to prevent this (car park “sharing” – it had some very prescriptive paragraphs around the management of building-associated parking) so it’s good to see this becoming more common.

  • Barney

    It hasn’t taken long for the much heralded Wynyard Quarter to be filled up with cardboard apartments. Soon any public space will be squeezed in between oil tanks and buildings, with or without bird shit dripping down the sides.
    The powers that run Auckland need to stop having ‘Visions’ and take a quick trip to Wellington to see how a waterfront facility really is created and maintained.
    And please, no response by going on & on about Wellington’s wind. Just take a look outside your window today

    • Good grief Barney; why not have a look at the plans where you will see that the seaward end of Wynyard is going to be an enormous public park. And of course on the landward side there is already Vic Park, so those dwellings are going to be sandwiched between two massive open spaces. Parks need people to use them, especially local people right there and apartments are the best way to bring them… the real question is will there be enough?

      • Patrick B

        Good question Patrick. Given the fact that this is a fantastic waterfront location, with handy transportation links to the CBD and beyond, I would’ve hoped for a higher density development than this will deliver. A mixed medium density commercial/residential area a la South Bank in Brisbane seems like a good model for Wynyard Quarter. 5-10 story buildings seem to be the norm in that area, and at street level the suburb couldn’t be more vibrant.

        • One thing that they should at least think about planning for, is a school.
          If they want to attract families, a school is going to become a requirement for the area,( along with helping to take the load off Freeman’s bay, ( whcih is already up around 25% in the last 6 years)

        • PB, take that thought to the NIMBYS of St Mary’s Bay who got a blanket height ban on the whole area. So there will be no variation in building height. It could be like the people of Brooklyn complaining that the Manhattan skyline is in the way of their view [ha!]….. Still it isn’t a bad height for a residential community, almost ideal, like the Barcelona, Bilbao, Paris block. Very much looking forward to it. Excited for Auckland.

          • John Polkinghorne

            It won’t be consistent building heights across the board – see the Bob Dey link in the post. Heights will range from 3 to 10 storeys: “this precinct will look distinctly unlike the Maritime Square office buildings along Fanshawe St, which are all 6-7 storeys, reaching the maximum height allowed there… heights range from 3-10 storeys, lower at the Daldy St end then stepping up”.

    • @Barney, and one of the main developers of apartments on Wellington’s Waterfront is?….. Oh thats right Willis Bond….

      • John Polkinghorne

        Not to mention, they’re also one of the main developers of office space and refurbishers of heritage space on Wellington’s Waterfront…

  • JimboJones

    The problem I have is that It looks too good to be true. Surely some right whinger on the council is going to destroy this with some ridiculous minimum density rule or something?

  • tuktuk

    Very exciting development and will really add to the area. Might we need a primary school there in future?

    The one other comment is that it would be good to see a sample of some of the floor plans especially for the more family sized apartments. If the individual apartment space-planning measures up to the overall vision, this housing development will be a fine thing indeed. Nice to see the tram track hinted at in the artists impression ;)

  • David

    one question, how do the banks view this type of development for 1st home buyers. Does the 20% deposit rate apply or is it 80% deposit. My son & daughter n law have the 20% & have been turned down on any duplex or apartment deals and have been told they need 80% deposit for duplex & apartment style housing. But if they could find a stand alone for the same price there wouldn’t be a problem for the 20% deposit.

    • Prolly not a lot of first home buyers going to be down there… this will be mainly down -sizing Boomers [also why school is prob not a big issue]

      • David

        There are still a lot of people [young couples & singles] who already rent around that area & other apartment complexes throughout the CBD that would love to own in the CBD & surrounds and transfer rent for mortgage. This would be a great opportunity. My young sister is renting in one of the apartment towers by the university and rents out her car park during the week to help pay the rent.

      • obi

        “this will be mainly down -sizing Boomers”

        That’s a shame, because it is the same demographic that makes Melbourne’s Docklands so dull. This needs to be an area with a bit of life, and a lot of that life should come from the residents.

        • Yes I agree but I suspect that is how it will roll. How could it be otherwise, especially with banks not lending on apartments, due to nutty sprawl-era formed prejudice?

          Add the cost of construction and the desire, by everyone, for at last some quality to be built…. they aren’t going to be cheap. But at least it looks they won’t be nasty either.

          • tuktuk

            ‘especially with banks not lending on apartments, due to nutty sprawl-era formed prejudice’
            ….that issue really is quite a show stopper.

            Is this an area that our current opposition parties (Labour, Greens etc) could investigate from a policy-making point of view?
            Time to exert a few levers and prods on our banks to change their mindset?
            This would be a great place to see what changes could make Auckland apartments and terrace houses much more affordable.

            Do the Australian “parent banks” of our NZ banks adopt similarly punitive measures on minimum deposits against apartments in Sydney or Melbourne versus standalone homes out in the ‘burbs of these two cities?
            What sort of minimum deposit lending criteria is there for a standalone home in Dandenong versus an apartment in Glen Waverley, Box Hill or St Kilda?

          • Frank McRae

            Bank lending restrictions for apartments are not due to prejudice – they merely reflect the fact that apartments are more vulnerable to falling prices than houses. This is because land, which generally appreciates, makes up a smaller portion of an apartments’ value then the building, which generally depreciates. Also, it is possible to significantly add to the supply of apartments in sought after locations, while it is not possible to significantly add to the stock of well-located stand-alone houses.

            The construction of these apartments in Wynyard is sure to diminish the value of the existing apartment stock in the Viaduct. This has happened in Wellington with the new development on the old overseas passenger terminal causing prices to drop in other waterfront apartment buildings.

          • SDW

            I just hope Council will remember some lessons from the Viaduct and look to put in place things like no complaint covenants on the new dwellings against noise from public activities (or commercial activities like bars/ restaurants) to ensure the use of all those new parks, plazas is restricted to just passing through.

  • 4 bed with 125 years of ground rent paid up front + construction costs associated with a good fitout. These will be $2 million plus surely.

  • curious

    I was told that timber cladding wasn’t allowed on SM risk group – apartments – by fire code even if sprinklered? Not true?

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