In a rare joint announcement, Labour and National introduced ‘The Enabling Housing Supply Bill’ (abbreviated from its full and rather wordy name, ‘The Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Bill’) in October of this year, in the context of an affordable housing crisis. And much commentary has ensued. Various organisations including City Councils, Te Kāhui Whaihanga New Zealand Institute of Architects and Kāinga Ora have made submissions on the bill, and at the time of writing there are 1104 items under the Submissions and Advice tab on the Parliament website. The bill also relates to speeding up the NPS-UD (National Policy Statement on Urban Development) by about two years – this provides the arguably lesser impact of allowing 6-storeys in town centres and transport nodes, for example in Auckland the Unitary Plan typically allows 5-storeys in these locations via the THAB zone (Terraced Housing and Apartment Buildings).

The key impact on our suburban environment will be allowing 3-storey dwellings in areas currently typified by 1 and 2-storey freestanding homes, with more lenient rules for Height in Relation to Boundary (6 metres + 60˚), minimum site sizes and outdoor living spaces, and all of this without the framework of the Resource Consent process (for complying schemes). These homes could be in the form of townhouses, terraced houses or small apartment buildings.

Competing pressures of providing affordable housing, having the infrastructure to support this greater density, and concerns around design quality have been at the forefront of recent commentary.

Example of 3-storey walk up apartments for Kāinga Ora completed prior to joining Maynard Marks, photo by author

Should the bill be passed in close to its present form (and with a new National Party leader there is already talk of shifts in support, and the Environment Select Committee have recommended amendments in their report), we see the following ten questions as key to our clients who may be interested in what this means for development opportunities. We will address some of these questions in more detail in upcoming articles:

  1. How does the new bill change what I can build on my site from the current zoning?
  2. People are calling this the ‘Slum Enabling Act’ – is this fair? How can we avoid this?
  3. Currently many developments (depending on the number of units) are reviewed by the Urban Design team at Auckland Council (and similar initiatives are in place at other Councils around the country) and assessed for how they address the street, provide good CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design), and are robustly interrogated for good design outcomes via pre-application meetings – what measures will be taken to keep up this good work?
  4. We have seen developments with an approved Resource Consent be appealed by neighbours recently, how do we know this won’t happen to us? – If we don’t need a Resource Consent, can the assessment of the planning rules as part of the Building Consent be challenged?
  5. I have a site I could develop but the whole street is one storey dwellings at present – will this stack up as a business case?
  6. What can I do to maximise my site under the new rules, but still make it look great and create value? What are some successful examples of this in New Zealand?
  7. Will this just make big homes on big inner suburban sites more valuable, and make those sites harder to develop at density?
  8. If I want to partner with Kāinga Ora to provide social housing, will they accept 3-storey terraced houses?
  9. How do I know if the infrastructure will be sufficient for the increased density I am proposing on my site?
  10. Higher density makes developing a site more complex – what consultants will I need?

We will be posting a series of articles on the Enabling Housing Supply Bill, planned topics are:

  • Design quality, the importance of architects and the value they can add.
  • Pushing the envelope – what the Bill means for developing different shapes and sizes of sites.
  • Avoiding pitfalls and building a business case – assessing infrastructure and viability.
  • FAQs – addressing comments and questions that arise from the first 4 articles and looking at other recent articles and commentary.

Article by Rachel Venables, Principal Architect | Associate Director