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Housing minister reveals plans to 'flood' country with new homes

Jul 04, 2024

Housing Minister Chris Bishop has unveiled the six major changes the government plans to make to boost housing growth in New Zealand.

They include getting rid of minimum floor area and balcony requirements for apartments and rules to allow cities to expand outwards at the fringes.

In a statement, he said the changes would free up land for development and remove unnecessary planning barriers and "ensure abundant development opportunities in our key urban areas" by making it easier to build new houses.

The changes are:

  • The establishment of Housing Growth Targets for Tier 1 and 2 councils
  • New rules requiring cities to be allowed to expand outwards at the urban fringe
  • A strengthening of the intensification provisions in the National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD)
  • New rules requiring councils to enable mixed-use developments in our cities
  • The abolition of minimum floor area and balcony requirements
  • New provisions making the MDRS optional for councils

The housing growth targets would require councils to "live-zone" development capacity to provide at least 30 years of housing demand at any one time, a shift from the current three years of live zoning.

"This will ensure abundant development opportunities in our key urban areas," he said. "The government rejects the view that cities can only grow outwards, as well as the view that density is the answer to everything," he said.

He said changes to the National Policy Statement on Urban Development would ensure that housing capacity "is enabled is in locations where there is demand and that are well-connected to businesses, services, and transportation".

"We will require greater density around strategic transport corridors not just rapid transit, simplify the definition of 'rapid transit' to avoid further boring and interminable debates about what counts as 'rapid transit', clarify the definition of 'walkable catchments' in the context of centre zones and rapid transit, and clarify the rules around unlisted 'qualifying matters' which allow councils to avoid enabling intensification," he said.

The removal of minimum floor areas and balcony requirements would remove rules imposed by some councils that could significantly increase the cost of new apartments and limit supply of lower-cost apartments, he said.

"Evidence from 2015 shows that in the Auckland market, balcony size requirements increased the costs of an apartment by $40,000 to $70,000 per unit."

The Medium Density Residential Standards are a rule brought in under Labour which required major cities to allow up to three homes of up to three storeys to be built on a single lot.

The move initially had National's support, with then-National leader Judith Collins and then-Housing spokesperson Nicola Willis announcing the plan alongside Labour's Megan Woods.

It passed with National's backing in 2021.

However, National pulled its support for the policy after Christopher Luxon took over the leadership, saying they had got it wrong.

Bishop said all councils would be required to vote on whether to retain, alter or remove the rule from their urban areas - but the housing growth targets would be mandatory.

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