One of the last vacant lots in Mount Eden is currently under development. It’s a big section on the corner of Mount Eden Rd and Kelly St – formerly occupied by what seemed to be a slightly feral orchard. It’s large enough to fit three or four old-style Mount Eden villas with generous backyards, or several blocks of walk-up apartments with space for shared vegetable gardens (and possibly even garages)
While I liked having the empty lot and the trees in the neighbourhood, I thought that development could have been a great opportunity to contribute to Kelly St’s unique character. Here’s a picture of what’s across the road: an elegant art deco building on the corner, built out to the site boundaries and joined up to a row of cool brick buildings hosting various businesses.
But the developers didn’t (or couldn’t) build something in a similar style. Here’s what’s going up across the street. It’s completely uninspiring, completely out of step with the rest of the neighbourhood, and completely within the rules.
What the Kelly St site is getting is a dull cul-de-sac with eight or ten two storey boxes. They have the superficial aspects of a traditional Kiwi home – the pitched roof, the setbacks from the edge of the site, and, of course, the two-car garage out the front – but they’re packed in densely with no yards to speak of. As I’ve written before, this should not be surprising, as when land is expensive people try to use it efficiently. But it is a bit disappointing.
Aesthetic judgments are slippery and subjective, but I think most people would prefer more buildings like the ones in the first picture, and fewer buildings like the ones in the second picture. My question is: What can we do to get good buildings to happen more often?
In the National Review, a conservative American magazine, Reihan Salam takes a look at the confused state of the American debate over intensification. His article, entitled “The Great Suburbia Debate” criticises the position taken by Joel Kotkin, a long-time campaigner for low-density suburban development. He writes:
Though I’m an admirer of Kotkin, and though I can’t speak for every conservative who has made the case for denser development, he gets a number of important things wrong…
For example, Kotkin claims that “some conservatives” (again, no names) have been “lured by their own class prejudice” into turning against market forces. “In reality,” Kotkin writes, “imposing Draconian planning is not even necessary for the growth of density.” Of course, this is exactly the argument that Edward Glaeser makes in The Triumph of the City, a manifesto for the pro-market, pro-density right. “In places that have both liberal planning regimes and economic growth, such as Houston and Dallas,” he observes, “there has been a more rapid increase in multifamily housing than in cities such as Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco or New York.” Indeed, this is why many conservatives, myself included, have explicitly argued that cities like New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles should look to the liberal planning regimes of Houston and Dallas as a model. (To be clear, by “liberal” planning regimes, Kotkin means less-restrictive, more market-oriented planning regimes, and so do I.)
The global cities that manage to be both highly productive and affordable, like Tokyo and Toronto, tend to have liberal planning regimes, which allow for rapid growth of housing stock, and in particular of the multifamily housing stock. These regions are characterized by rapid housing development in the suburbs and in the urban core, and their “suburbs” tend to be more urban than low-density suburbs in the U.S. governed by stringent planning regimes that tightly restrict multifamily development. When Glaeser makes the case for density, he does so not by calling for “imposing draconian planning” on cities and towns. Rather, he explicitly calls for the relaxation of land-use regulation.
Kotkin relies heavily on the work of Wendell Cox, a transportation consultant who seems to believe that denser development is necessarily a product of central planning. In desirable regions, however, less restrictive planning regimes will naturally lead to higher densities, as property owners will naturally seek to maximize the value of their investments. Restrictive land-use regulations tend to limit density, not impose it on unwilling landowners.
Salam’s article is excellent and I recommend reading it in full. I pulled out these excerpts as they highlight a few essential facts that often go missing from the debate over urban policy:
- Denser development cannot be imposed by fiat – it will happen if and only if there is market demand for it (as there often is in places that are accessible to jobs and amenities). If nobody wants to buy apartments, then no apartments will get built!
- Urban planners can’t simply require people to build at higher densities – but they can limit density to below what the market wants.
- The rising demand for higher density development isn’t a market distortion, but evidence that the market is working.
In short, we must interpret rising population densities as the result of many individual decisions rather than the whim of an urban planner. My research shows that population densities are rising rapidly in Auckland and several other large NZ cities, which suggests that we’re voting heavily for density with our feet and our wallets. This is, as Salam suggests, a natural outcome of market forces and should be accepted with equanimity. We should recognise this demand where it exists and make complementary public investments in walking and cycling facilities and public transport.
Lastly, I’d note that people from all across the political spectrum should be able to appreciate cities. As Jane Jacobs observed in The Death and Life of Great American Cities, a good urban neighbourhood demonstrates many of the virtues that conservatives celebrate, such as small business ownership, a close-knit community that watches out for itself, and independent-minded civil society (often battling against big government bureaucracy in the form of overreaching traffic engineers).
Jane Jacobs campaigned against this Pharaonic act of bureaucratic hubris (Source)
As a result, we often see centre-right mayors implementing good urban policies. Big-city mayors such as New York’s Michael Bloomberg, London’s Boris Johnson, and Buenos Aires’ Mauricio Macri have been right at the forefront of the movement for better cities. They’ve realised that better cities are more prosperous, and that it’s possible to improve a city by improving the choices available to people.
Fletcher Residential have lodged two plan changes with the council to develop the Three Kings Quarry.
Fletcher Residential has lodged two private plan change applications with Auckland Council for the redevelopment of Three Kings Quarry. These applications outline two ways to transform the area into a new urban precinct.
The quarry is located at the southern end of Mt Eden Road, eight kilometres from Auckland’s central business district. New links will be created to connect the development’s housing precincts with Three Kings town centre and the volcanic cone
Te Tatua a Riukiuta Maunga (Big King).
The Three Kings development promotes housing diversity with a range of high quality dwellings including two-to-three storey terrace homes, three-to-four storey apartments and 10-storey cascading apartments set against the quarry slope.
Fletcher Residential’s preferred plan change application involves exchanging land to better utilise surrounding Crown land. This will create significant recreational space with two sports fields, a Town Square connecting the precinct to the Three Kings town centre, a convention centre and the historic Three Kings Oval.
The second plan change appears to be a backup should they not be able to exchange land and contains the same residential development however they say it has less extensive community spaces and sports fields than the preferred proposal.
Below is the location of the Quarry along Mt Eden Rd and what it looks like at the moment. At its deepest it is over 3o below the level of Mt Eden Rd.
Fletcher’s estimate their plans will deliver 1,200-1,500 dwellings which would equate to 2,500 to 3,500 extra residents. They’ve also launched a site for the development showing some concept images of what it would be look like. Below are some of those along with how they describe the development (so warning marketing speak).
A clear view ahead
Urban design has been carefully considered to incorporate multiple vistas of Te Tatua-a-Riukiuta / Big King. Street level views and improved access will restore Te Tatua-a-Riukiuta / Big King’s position as a key feature of Auckland, and by doing so give the site a strong sense of location and connection with the wider city.
One of a family
Designated viewing areas will let residents greet the morning or usher out the evening with views to Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill) to the east and Maungawhau (Mt Eden) to the north.
1. Regenerated native bush will extend Big King’s footprint for greater connection between neighbourhood and nature.
2. Enhanced pathways will be created to open up Big King for recreational access.
3. Key sightlines to Big King as well as to neighbouring volcanic cones will be preserved.
Around the edge of the quarry are meant to be a series of cascading apartments up to 10 storeys high against the Quarry wall. I would certainly hope there’s publicly accessible lifts to help provide good connectivity between the development and the road. It also seems odd to me that the housing would go in the northern part which would likely to be the most shaded part while the sports fields would be in the south which is also the area closes to the town centre.
Fresh air living
Interconnected open spaces encourage outdoor activities – both relaxed and active. Two new sand-carpeted sports fields connected to the Big King Reserve will be created for year-round activity, and significant areas of passive open space will be provided for relaxation and reflection.
Pedestrian trails, boardwalks, ramps, stairways and a proposed elevated walkway to Te Tatua-a-Riukiuta / Big King enable exploration by foot and reduce the need for motorised transport throughout the area.
A natural fit
Stepped apartments will cascade down the quarry slopes to both transform and complement the existing landscape. Living spaces are to the front, with car parking hidden behind, preserving front door access to parkland and walkways.
1. 7.5 hectares of high-quality open spaces enable a wide variety of recreational activities.
2. Key pedestrian linkages will be provided to and through the site.
3. Contemporary urban design provides for an active interface between residences and park spaces.
A diverse mix of people and cultures will come together to create an integrated urban community. With residences on the doorstep of a thriving town centre, meeting and mingling will be a part of daily life.
A vibrant heart
Residents and visitors alike will find plenty to see and do in the town square – a vibrant gathering place that puts people at the centre, and draws on the energy of the surrounding retail, recreational and residential areas.
Home for all
A blend of retirees, young families, solo dwellers and working professionals living side-by-side. With a balanced mix of terrace houses and apartments, the new area will cater to a wide range of lifestyles and life stages.
1. When completed, 1200—1500 dwellings will become home to 2500—3500 people.
2. Located just 6.5 km from the heart of Auckland, the area will attract a diverse mix of cultures and lifestyles.
3. An activated town square will foster a lively retail scene.
Situated in the heart of an already thriving suburb, the proposed development offers access to nearby amenities that make life easy: Three Kings School, a major supermarket, shops and services, and public transport.
Out and about
Shows, live music, book readings, community classes and more are just a short walk away at the Fickling Centre and the Mount Roskill Library. Special care will be taken to ensure the new site is closely linked to these popular civic facilities.
A sense of flow
Movement of people is a key element of community. With a series of walkways, stairs and potentially a public lift, the town square is designed to connect the existing suburb to amenities and open spaces within the development.
1. Opening up space for shared and public use is a key component of the overall design.
2. A ‘village within a city’ will be created by integrating retail, recreational and residential spaces.
3. Residents will be able to make use of existing amenities in the surrounding area.
I know some in the community aren’t happy about the proposal as they were keen to see the giant hole filled in before being developed while I also understand the local board are keen for the local community to have more say on the shape of the development so I’m sure there will be a lot more discussion from them over the coming weeks and months.
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.
The winner of the apartment design competition was announced today as S3 Architects.
There will be 25 apartments on just a 325m² site – something that in some parts of Auckland is smaller than the minimum lot size for a single house. They also say the intention is to have commercial tenancies on the ground floor but I’m not holding my breath for that part just yet.
Interestingly Mike Lee has called the design “cheap and shoddy” as well as saying
But councillor Mike Lee said such apartments were not big enough for families and its exterior was ugly and not appropriate.
“I can just see this getting mouldy. If we’re going to have highrise, they need to make it durable,” Lee said.
So this will get mouldy but a wooden “heritage station” located in a damp valley in Parnell won’t? It has to be one of the weakest arguments I’ve heard against having intensification.
Back in May when the last group of special housing areas were announced the Council also announced that they would be holding an apartment building design competition in conjunction with Ockham Residential – builders of The Issac and a number of other developments – who would then build the winning design.
“This competition will be open to an architect, or architectural practice that will compete to design and document a high-quality medium density residential housing development on the land. Architects will be offered the chance to propose medium density housing prototypes that illustrate the possibilities and advantages of urban living, in recognition of the excellent opportunity that the Accord offers to create more modern housing options in Auckland,” Mr Brown says.
The competition will open on 21 May with details soon to be posted on the NZIA website at www.nzia.co.nz.
The is a small 321 m² site at 11 Akepiro St in Kingsland and is bounded by the Western railway line and near the pseudo motorway like Dominion Rd Flyover – although the latter is partially blocked by three large Norfolk Pines.
The judges have picked out the top five designs out of the 64 entries – all of which are on display at the Auckland Art Gallery from today till Tuesday. The top five are below
Matthews & Matthews Architects.
Waterfall Gunns Lowe Architects.
Andrew Sexton Architecture.
Just by looking at the pictures I’m not sure exactly which one is my favourite although I’m leaning towards the top two. Obviously there are other factors that need to be taken into account too, like the layout of the apartments themselves.
As you can expect not everyone is happy though with anti-intensification group Auckland 2040 ranting about them in the Herald the other day.
But Richard Burton of anti-intensification lobby group Auckland 2040 doubted the scheme would work and said the council had only acted because it was suffering a public backlash against the Unitary Plan.
Mr Burton said he doubted Auckland would get masses of stylish units and fears monolithic blocks rising in low-rise suburban neighbourhoods.
“The council asking for trust is like a crocodile smile. Auckland is replete with badly designed apartments and to suddenly say ‘trust us, we’re only going to get high-quality designs’ flies in the face of Auckland’s history.”
Quite why a group set up on the North Shore to try and lock the area into some kind of suburban dark age is commenting on development in a mixed use area that already contains a number of apartment buildings I don’t quite know. I also find it insulting that a group made up of people who for the most part won’t be alive in 2040 are telling those who will be how they should live. That’s not to say they shouldn’t have a say but far more weight should be placed on the opinions of those who will have to live the positive and negative consequences of how the city develops.
A couple of weeks ago Auckland Council quietly released a new version of its Capacity for Growth Study. The CFG study is an important and interesting document – it models the potential for future residential and business development under current or proposed planning rules. In other words, if you want to figure out what’s possible under the proposed Unitary Plan, take a look at the CFG study.
For example, the CFG study identifies opportunities for future residential development for throughout the Auckland region. Based on a detailed analysis of planning rules, property parcels, and existing buildings, it finds that Auckland could add up to 38,000 new dwellings on vacant lots within the urban boundaries and another 58,000 dwellings through infill development:
The CFG study also presents maps showing development potential in each local board – which is helpful for all us visual learners. Here’s the map of development potential in the city centre. The coloured areas represent vacant or partly vacant plots of land that could be developed under the proposed Unitary Plan:
One of the most interesting things about the CFG study is that it lets us get a sense of the development capacity around the three CRL stations – Aotea, K Road, and Newton. As a reminder, here’s a map of the three stations:
The CFG study really highlights the potential of Newton Station – there is a lot of vacant or underused land that could be redeveloped to a high standard. Here’s a zoomed-in map of the area around Newton and K Road Stations. The Newton station catchment is, roughly, the area immediately to the south of the white motorway cordon:
The dark blue plots represent vacant lots that could be developed, while the light blue represents lots with the potential for additional buildings. Compared to the map of the full city centre area, you’ll see that Newton has more development potential than almost anywhere else around the city centre. Certainly more than K Road, which is mainly built out at this point. It helps that the area’s zoning under the proposed Unitary Plan allows for medium-height development of 8 story buildings.
The Capacity for Growth study shows that Newton Station will really be a game-changer for the area. The CRL will put Newton on the map – and once connected directly to the rail network, perhaps with an associated bus interchange, it could easily become a second Newmarket.
When the government finally announced they would support the CRL – but starting in 2020 – they listed two targets that would need to be on track to being met to bring construction forward.
- Rail Patronage to double to 20 million
- CBD employment to increase by 25%
We’ve written about both of these a number of times before. I personally think it’s quite possible that we will reach the 20 million patronage target early, especially if we can continue the current growth of over 12% per annum. The harder target – and dodgier one – is to increase CBD employment by 25%. It’s more dodgy as it appears to be being used as an indicator of travel demand but there are many other factors that might increase demand for rail e.g. increases in parking prices and the number of students.
An article in the Herald on Tuesday highlights just how hard the employment growth number will be.
Auckland businesses are squeezed for office space, and the central city is experiencing its most critical shortages of commercial real estate on record.
So rents could be about to shoot up fast.
Chris Dibble, Colliers International’s national research manager, said latest analysis of vacancy rates surprised him because it showed that an area less than the size of a soccer field was available to lease.
“We knew it was going to be low, but not this low. The prime sector for premium and A-grade vacancy rates in Auckland CBD is just 1.4 per cent, beating our expectations of 2 per cent. It was 4.7 per cent six months ago and the 20-year average is 8.2 per cent,” he found.
“The vacant space aggregates to just 6116sq m, less than a soccer field and unprecedented in our records which began 20 years ago,” Dibble said.
“Auckland CBD property houses some of the most productive businesses in New Zealand and with little space available for expansion, we are stalling the potential growth of the country at a critical time in the cycle.
“In a market that needs to attract quality staff through quality environments, the lack of available space and developments nearing completion means we will stumble just as we were making headwinds in what has been a tough slog for many. There are only 11 prime buildings with vacant space available. Only eight buildings can accommodate more than 20 staff (currently 11 per cent of the overall CBD market).
“Only seven are able to accommodate less than 20 staff. Tenants who haven’t found suitable accommodation will have to forgo quality or wait until early 2016 for a slight reprieve from spec builds such as Mansons TCLM’s development or Goodman Group.
In effect CBD job growth – which has been strong in the last few years – is going to dry up simply because there’s not much office space left and there’s not a huge amount to come on stream any time soon. Office space will get a bit of a bump from the Precinct Properties redevelopment of the Downtown Mall site but that won’t come on stream till 2019. That development though will see at least the first part of the CRL constructed as it absolutely has to happen at the same time as the redevelopment seeing as it passes through the basement.
Auckland Council’s Chief Economist Geoff Cooper was in the paper on Thursday with a few interesting arguments about urban planning. The article is refreshing because in it Cooper challenges a few of the many sacred cows in the debate over growth and housing affordability.
In particular, Cooper discusses the “up versus out” narrative that has been wrapped around Auckland’s urban growth. In recent months, for example, both the New Zealand Initiative and consultancy NZIER have published research papers arguing that Auckland should open up greenfield land to improve housing affordability.
Cooper argues that these analyses have failed to notice the fact that the proposed Unitary Plan already does this:
Despite this complexity, discussion on Auckland’s urban policy is often reduced to “up” (intensification) or “out” (sprawl).
This simplification overlooks three key issues — Auckland Council’s proposed urban limit policy, the policies underlying a compact city, and the political economy of urban policy.
The proposed plan vastly extends the urban limit, aiming for an average of seven years infrastructure-ready land supply available at all times. Once implemented, around 20 per cent more urban zoned land will be available.
This is enough for up to 76,000 new dwellings (roughly equivalent to all of Hamilton).
Calls for more land supply miss the solutions being implemented.
In my view, a policy of greenfields growth could result in not insubstantial economic costs. These risks are discussed in a range of new studies,evidence which present evidence suggesting outlying locations are not necessarily more affordable once transport costs are taken into account (often difficult to do in advance). So while house prices might be cheaper, the costs of getting around can offset those savings. Not to mention the external costs of congestion wider society must bear from more development in peripheral urban locations.
On the other hand, Cooper also critiques debates over residential intensification. He points out that removing *restrictions* on urban intensification development, so as to enable more compact and diverse forms of housing, doesn’t amount to “forcing intensification upon communities”, as some have claimed. Instead, the Unitary Plan tends to remove barriers that prevent people from living at higher densities in locations that provide the attributes they seek, such as amenity and accessibility. Cooper comments:
Proposed policies for a compact city are also misunderstood.
Compact living policies are about creating choices, by reducing existing regulations that stop people living in higher density areas, when they want to.
The inherited planning framework by Auckland Council is heavily biased towards the “quarter acre section” through rigid regulations. This creates a push for urban sprawl.
The city’s rules prevent the supply of housing people want in the areas they want to live in – close to the city, with good transport and other amenities.
These preferences are clearly shown in soaring house prices on Auckland’s isthmus.
The draft plan was designed to create greater housing choice. But this has been scaled back significantly during public consultation.
Residents want to preserve their lot, but it comes at a cost to future Aucklanders. New height limits have been introduced in many suburbs, while existing height limits have been tightened, as have density constraints which means it will be harder to gain access to attractive suburbs.
The important thing Cooper highlights here is how policies that restrict housing supply in desirable areas come with a significant cost. There’s a wide range of international evidence suggesting restrictive planning regulations, such as minimum parking regulations, density controls, and building height limits, tend to raise the cost of housing. A 2002 paper by Edward Glaeser and Joseph Gyourko, for example, found American cities with more restrictive zoning were less affordable:
The bulk of the evidence marshaled in this paper suggests that zoning, and other land use controls, are more responsible for high prices where we see them. There is a huge gap between the price of land implied by the gap between home prices and construction costs and the price of land implied by the price differences between homes on 10,000 square feet and homes on 15,000 square feet. Measures of zoning strictness are highly correlated with high prices… [I]f policy advocates are interested in reducing housing costs, they would do well to start with zoning reform.
New evidence from Auckland suggests that our planning regulations may have a similar effect, driving up housing costs above construction costs. While the proposed Unitary Plan loosens some regulations, it arguably doesn’t go far enough to truly improve housing choice and housing affordability. Indeed, in some locations it proposes much more onerous regulations than exist under existing district plans, such as on minimum size requirements for apartment. Such requirements have the potential to exacerbate housing costs for the households that can least afford it.
Finally, Cooper also highlights the sometimes perverse nature of the political economy of urban planning. As many people have pointed out, planning regulations have significant effects on intergenerational equity. While restrictive regulations might be good for existing homeowners, they’re extremely bad for new homeowners – and by extension future generations.
It seems fairly obvious to me that if a city is systematically unwilling to allow new housing supply to be built in desirable, accessible areas, then skilled young people will increasingly face a Hobson’s choice: Either pay too much for housing in an accessible place, or pay too much for transport in a cheaper fringe location. And in the long run, we can expect these people to choose another city to live in. Indeed, unaffordable cities place will tend to be disadvantaged in the increasingly global competition for skilled young labour. In this other recent article Cooper actually makes this very point: Auckland competes for people, business, and capital more with Brisbane. Sydney and Melbourne than with other places in New Zealand.
Unfortunately our political system seems especially bad at solving the intergenerational problems even though this is arguably one of its core functions.
This Government’s inability/unwillingness to make headway on carbon emissions being the prime example. As a young Aucklander with many Kiwi friends living overseas. I am fairly sure that the people who will benefit from better housing policy are, for the most part, not voting in elections or going along to consultation meetings. Many more may have not even been born yet. It is these voices that are so often not heard, nor even acknowledged, in the debates on the Unitary Plan.
Responsibility for this issue lies jointly with our political representatives and mainstream media outlets, who tend to lack the courage to push back on even the most blatant self-interested objections to urban development.
Ultimately I think it’s really useful to have Auckland Council’s Chief Economist speaking out on these issues and highlighting that Auckland needs to both grow “up and out”. Now it’d be nice if more people at a central government level started to champion the same issues.
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.
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.