Housing areas no longer special

The recent revelation that 86 of Auckland’s 154 Special Housing Areas have not come to fruition has angered Cr John Watson, who says Council wasted money, time and resources with little impact on housing affordability for Aucklanders.

Special Housing Areas (SHAs) were a key part of Auckland Council and the Government’s plan to speed up the provision of land for housing. Under the Auckland Housing Accord approved in September 2013 between Council and Government, 10 percent of new homes in SHAs were to be affordable – able to be bought by a first-home buyer on a modest income.

In return for the affordability component, the developers granted SHAs had their applications fast-tracked without public notification. They were given priority treatment by the Housing Project Office and enjoyed special privileges in planning terms. “Their land was zoned to Unitary Plan zonings even though the Unitary Plan hadn’t been passed at that stage,” Cr Watson says. “There were no public appeal rights.”

The SHA status lapses when Council does not receive a resource consent application within a year of the SHA being gazetted. A local example is the site at 6–8 and 7–9 George Lowe Place through to 6–8 Hillary Square in Orewa town centre. This had its SHA status removed in May (HM June 14) because no application was received within 12 months of the site being gazetted.

Cr Watson says Council has a list of the 86 SHAs but is not releasing it on the grounds of confidentiality. It is therefore unclear how many local SHAs are affected.

He says one motivation to walk away from an SHA came with the Unitary Plan.

“During the Unitary Plan decision making process there was the opportunity to insist on a set number of affordable homes in any housing development of more than 15 dwellings, but a majority of the councillors voted against it,” Cr Watson says.

Cr Watson and Cr Wayne Walker were among seven councillors who voted for those affordability provisions.

“As a result of that decision, for some developers the Unitary Plan provisions are better than SHA status because there’s no affordability component. This meant developers could walk way from their SHAs.”


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