Last year the government and the Auckland Council announced a housing accord that would designate areas within Auckland as Special Housing Areas in which the council would offer a fast tracked consenting process for developers subject to certain conditions. It was touted as a way to address the increasing cost of building new houses in response to rapidly escalating house prices. It also came not long after the government had been talking about smashing Auckland’s urban limits leaving many to fear it was just a vehicle to encourage sprawl and line the pockets of land bankers. So far three tranches of special housing areas have been announced – Tranche 1, Tranche 2, Tranche 3 - and while they have started to shift towards more urban redevelopment sites, many of the initial locations for developments we would often associate with traditional sprawl including locations in Kumeu, Flat Bush, Papakura, Pukekohe and Silverdale.
It’s now starting to appear that not all that was promised about the SHA’s is happening in reality and that instead property owners and developers are using the process to increase the value of their sites before flicking them off to someone else – colour me surprised. The Manukau Courier reports:
Are the first cracks appearing in the much-trumpeted plan to solve Auckland’s housing crisis?
Developers at four of the 63 Special Housing Areas (SHAs) across the city have pulled out of the new fast-track consent process, the Auckland Council confirms.
And planning consultant Jon Maplesden, who has clients within SHAs, says he knows of several more developers who are unhappy and others who are “just not even bothering with it”.
Their reasons include frustration with infrastructure provision and the cost of providing the stipulated “affordable” housing.
Developers are opting out at the Murphy’s Rd site in Flat Bush with capacity for 275 houses; Addison in Takanini, 500 houses; Anselmi Ridge in Pukekohe, 150 houses; and the Millwater section of Silverdale North, 472 houses.
Maplesden says some landowners haven’t applied for SHA status to build houses but to add value to the land.
“There’s a number of them that I know are trying hard to sell them.”
The council confirms the land in the Albany Highway SHA has been sold.
Housing developments in Takanini and Pukekohe are being built by McConnell Property and its plans were already well advanced before the areas were designated as SHAs, marketing manager Jo Anderson says.
“To redesign would be further time and cost to do so. On these multi-stage developments, the local staff had been involved in the development for a number of years and stages, so for consistency we preferred to have those personnel also process any new resource consent applications.”
Maplesden says developers who apply for fast-track consent for, say, 500 houses, won’t be building all of those houses at once. Historically there are “very few” projects that have built at a rate of more than 100 houses per year, he says.
“No developer, not even Fletchers, can afford to do a 500-lot development all at once.”
So a 3000-dwelling SHA could take 30 years to complete, he says.
Wow so land owners are using the SHA process to increase the value of their land before flicking it off for likely a nice bit of profit – well colour me surprised. To me the issue of land owners on the city’s fringe only slowly releasing land is an issue that has been largely ignored by many who promote opening up greenfield land. We can unleash the limits as much as we like but if the people owning the land only release it one little bit at a time to ensure they get a high price for it then there’s not much that the council or the government can do about it short of getting into the land banking business themselves.
With not many new SHA developments seemingly getting off the ground – other than those where an SHA was applied to an already underway development like Hobsonville Point – it’s shaping up that the whole idea of the SHA’s could end up a significant failure that only served to line the pockets of a few land bankers.