Bipartisan housing deal: Weakening of ‘townhouse bill’ estimated to only cost 1690 Auckland homes

Official analysis shows the proposed changes to the bipartisan housing bill will only cost 1690 potential new dwellings in Auckland.

Labour and National are both backing a move to weaken the bill they negotiated together to zone for far more medium-density housing in New Zealand’s major cities.

The two parties struck a deal to pass a massive change to zoning laws in October, allowing three-storey three-dwelling buildings on residential land in major cities without resource consent.

The bill is aimed at increasing the number of medium density housing.

Monique Ford/Stuff

The bill is aimed at increasing the number of medium density housing.

This would remove much of the control those councils have over stopping things like townhouses being built, and is estimated to allow up to 105,000 more dwellings to be built over the next eight years.

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The proposed change to the bill will lower the height that a building can be at one metre from its boundary from six metres to four, with a 60 degree recessionary plane.

Analysis from PWC and released by Environment Minister David Parker suggests that in Auckland this will reduce the number of homes being built as a result of the bill by 1690 over eight years – or 4 percent of the total homes it is estimated the bill will allow.

The analysis shows that any further lowering would have a much larger effect – with a 3 metre limit reducing the projected homes by 12,124.

National and Labour have been under heavy pressure to change the bill by councils in select committee, who are set to lose much of the power they currently have to stop new homes being built.

The parties are keen to get the bill passed before Parliament rises on December 15 and have put it through a truncated select committee process. It is expected to pass its second reading on Tuesday night, less than two months after being introduced. Bills generally go through around six months of select committee before second reading.

New housing is built in Wellington.


New housing is built in Wellington.

National has faced particular pressure from ACT’s David Seymour, who argues the bill will introduce “chaos” and won’t solve the problem of housing because it does not pay for infrastructure.

“It doesn’t matter how many houses could be theoretically built if there’s no connections. Without more infrastructure, there won’t be more houses in total, they’ll just be in different places,” Seymour said.

The Infrastructure Commission disagreed, saying the bill could actually lower infrastructure costs as medium density dwellings would use infrastructure more efficiently.

“Intensification increases the number of homes but overall usage of network infrastructure like water, transport, electricity, and telecommunications and social infrastructure like schools and hospitals is unlikely to increase significantly if at all,” the agency wrote in its submission.

“This is because the primary impact of the bill is to shift where people live and how crowded the housing stock is, rather than to increase New Zealand’s total urban population.”

Both ACT and the Greens pushed for the bill to go back to the select committee in an unsuccessful motion on Tuesday night.

Parker started his speech on Tuesday night saying ACT were abandoning their long-held view that the Resource Management Act was part of the problem with housing supply.

“I find it incredible that they have turned their back upon that long history of their party and instead backed the interests of the Epsom electorate of their leader. I really do think National have wedged ACT on this issue,” Parker said.

The Green Party supports the bill but believes it should spend longer in select committee and could be strengthened to encourage higher density housing.

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