Thursday, 19 May 2016

The Space To Make Dreams Come True: Why Labour’s Latest Move On Housing Could Be A Ground-Breaker.

Back To The Future: By sanctioning green-field (as opposed to brown-field) housing development, Phil Twyford and his colleagues are now free to draw forth from Labour’s honourable past the sort of planning ideas which, had they been implemented at the time they were developed (the late-1940s) would have made Auckland a much easier city in which to live and move around.
 
PHIL TWYFORD has urged the National Government to rule Auckland’s contentious Urban Growth Boundary out of the city’s Unitary Plan. This is a major policy announcement from Labour’s housing spokesperson. By embracing the virtues of expansion over intensification, the party has repositioned itself as a defender of Auckland’s characteristic urban sprawl – and everything that goes with it. That Twyford’s announcement prompted congratulatory media releases from the National Party, Business New Zealand and the Taxpayer’s Union is a measure of just how big a concession Labour has made.
 
Labour should not, however, be condemned simply because in some respects (and only in some) its housing policies are similar to the Right’s. Politically-speaking, the policy of urban intensification was as impractical as it was controversial. Homeowners were always going to balk at the prospect of multi-storeyed apartment buildings sprouting up in their leafy streets. Overruling those objections would have required a degree of heavy-handedness quite foreign to the New Zealand scene. Those deemed responsible – be they local or national politicians – would have paid a heavy price.
 
Policy-wise, Labour now has room to breathe. It also, quite literally, has the space to display some progressive creativity. By sanctioning green-field (as opposed to brown-field) housing development, Twyford and his colleagues are now free to draw forth from Labour’s honourable past the sort of planning ideas which, had they been implemented at the time they were developed (the late-1940s) would have made Auckland a much easier city in which to live and move around.
 
Seventy years on, however, with the population of Auckland approaching two million, the size of the planning canvass has expanded considerably. Looking forward, we must now envisage an urban corridor extending all the way from Hamilton to Whangarei.
 
A conurbation of this size cannot be serviced efficiently by the automobile. Crucial to its success would be the creation of a state-of-the-art rapid-rail network capable of whisking commuters from Hamilton to Downtown Auckland in 30 minutes. (If that seems impossible, just have a word with the French and the Chinese!) The huge enabling power of such a network would be more than sufficient to underwrite the many housing developments along its length.
 
Rather than leave the design and construction of these new communities to the private sector, Labour should promote the creation of a public design and construction entity dedicated to building homes, apartments and community facilities equal to anything currently on display in Germany and Scandinavia.
 
This massive public construction programme (which would not only encompass the building of houses and apartment buildings, but also the new rapid-rail network) would need to be accompanied by a radical reform of New Zealand’s tenancy laws. Only by, once again, making the State the nation’s pre-eminent – and most accommodating – landlord will New Zealanders enjoy access to well-designed and healthy homes, with full security of tenure, at an affordable rent.
 
On RNZ’s “Morning Report”, this morning (18/5/16) Max Rashbrooke and James Crow spoke to Guyon Espiner about the urgent need for 20,000 new homes – just to meet the needs of this country’s homeless families. Many of these families reside in Auckland, and neither their needs, nor the needs of the tens-of-thousands of New Zealand and immigrant families who intend to make the Auckland Region their home, will ever be adequately met by the existing, market-driven, system – which daily demonstrates its incapacity.
 
By abandoning the Urban Growth Boundary, Labour has given itself both the physical and intellectual space in which to prove that it still knows how to make New Zealanders dreams come true.
 
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of 18 May 2016.

6 comments:

peter petterson said...

Good idea, good policy which may help Labour and NZ families. Better still get immigrants and refugees to go to the regions and the south Island - away from Auckland. Go South young man!

Guerilla Surgeon said...

The only problem is, we are covering our agricultural land – often our best agricultural land – with houses. And yet we rely on agriculture for most of our exports. It's a conundrum.

Anonymous said...

Well lets wait and see, Labour caused the problem when they signed the Free Trade Agreement with China in 2008, which gave the Chinese people the unfettered right to buy property in NZ whether or not they resided here.
That agreement and provision(s) are still in force.
To me Labours proposal sound positive and I would like to see endorsement from both the Greens and NZ First. If that endorsement is not forthcoming it will mean intensive negotiations between Labour and its probable coalition partners (Greens and NZ First).
If they do agree then I let me state NZ will have a real and dynamic election on its hands in 2017.
Well done to all concerned, come on the Greens and NZ First, NZ calls on you.

Good post Chris.

greywarbler said...

Another hub city between Hamilton and Manukau, properly planned with a thought to those built outside London - called Welwyn Garden city etc. would be good and fed by the rapid rail. Great. I drove at night between Hamilton and Auckland decades ago and it was as poorly lit as a wide farm road.

And let's have lots of three-storey accommodation units with two 2-1/2 b'rm units on one floor with a door to the stairs for the pair on each floor. Then they can be let to a small family, or become a floor housing an extended family, keeping the family unit together all interacting and supporting each other. Would provide flexibility, especially for the South Auckland sized families, or a blended family which ended up with six children from teenagers to toddler, teenagers able to train, work and live at the family home, and contribute to the family budget. These would be well built with sound insulation, and probably concrete walls and floors with specifications for strong reinforcing, strong concrete, and no designing engineer or civil engineer contracting out the actual supervision of the building process.

Naturally they would be ranged around a square or green area, and nearby would be light industry, services and offices so there was work within bike or walking distance.

And they wouldn't have large pools outside for children to fall into.
and they would be fenced off from the street so that people didn't have the idea that just anybody could use their green space and amenities.
Many people have the idea that if anything is provided by the government then the people receiving the service have no rights to anything for themselves.

bsprout said...

22,000 Auckland homes were empty when the census was done in in 2013 and the density of the city is not that great compared to many:
http://www.metromag.co.nz/city-life/property/running-on-empty/
"In 2006 the metropolitan area covered 1,000 square kilometres: less than Los Angeles (4,320), Sydney (1,657) and London (1,572). Auckland’s population density was also lower, at 1,210 people per square kilometre: London had 4,760, Los Angeles 2,846 and Sydney 2,548."
http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/graph/15879/city-populations

Hobsonville and Papakura are existing government owned lands where social and low cost housing could have been already built but the Government itself is land banking in Papakura and only 38 semi low cost houses are available in Hobsonville.
http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/271032/fewer-state-houses-planned-for-papakura-site

It is fairly clear that the Government has no intention of building social houses itself and extending the city's boundaries is more about meeting the demand for developers than meeting the need for lower cost homes.

Labour has bought into National's spin and blame shifting. Auckland and Queenstown have the same demands for low paid service workers but greed and nimbyism is blocking the obvious need to have low cost housing near where the workers are needed. If social and low cost houses are built outside the current boundaries it is unlikely that efficient public transport systems will link them to the centre.

A big part of the problem is also an inefficient transport system, a fast train from Hamilton and through Pukekohe and Papakura to Central Auckland, for instance, would immediately take the pressure of needing to extend Auckland's boundary.

I much prefer the Green's policy of just rolling up sleeves, and just building some bloody houses, everything else is just an excuse and now Labour has sadly bought into it.


Nick J said...

65000 immigrants in the last year according to the news tonight. That has to be planned for if it is not going to impact adversely this countries disadvantaged. I see no evidence of planning, feel free to enlighten me. Also tell me how we can expand jobs to contain unemployment? Or build the equivalent of Palmerston North each year? Tell me who benefits? And why do most of these good people come to Auckland?
Answer that honestly and the scale of the challenge might lead us to question our politician how and why?