31 Jul 2017

Housing projects stalled by council delays, says developer

5:50 am on 31 July 2017

An Auckland land developer's plans to build 1500 houses in a fast track special housing area have been set back by more than two years after long delays in council consents and rezoning, he says.

Land developer Nigel Hosken.

Land developer Nigel Hosken. Photo: RNZ / Sharon Brettkelly

More than 150 Special Housing Areas (SHAs) were set up in 2013 as a solution to the city's housing crisis by building tens of thousands of homes, with 10 percent affordable properties.

Land developer Nigel Hosken said many developers had walked away from projects because the SHA had failed to deliver on promises of speedier consents.

Mr Hosken manages a project in the Hingaia special housing area in South Auckland for 16 landowners.

An architect and property manager, his job has been to rezone 48 hectares of rural land and subdivide it, ready for building 1500 homes including 150 or 10 percent affordable.

He expected the first homeowners to move in by mid 2016. Instead, earthworks have just begun.

"We've just got ourselves to the stage where we're laying the first pipelines," he said. "So we're probably still 18 months away from the first house."

Getting 16 landowners to agree had been difficult, he said, but he also blamed the hold-up on the time consuming and costly consents process.

"These developers have paid everything. They've paid for buying the land, they've paid for the zoning, they've paid for the consents, they're paying for the infrastructure and they have to pay development contributions on top."

That was not fair, Mr Hosken said, when they were promised special treatment including fast track consents in the SHAs in return for building 10 percent affordable homes.

After a delayed rezoning process for his development, Mr Hosken lodged numerous resource consent applications before the SHA legislation cut-off date in September 2016.

He said the council promised that key consents would be issued by December 2016 so he called for tenders, appointed contractors and entered presale contracts for completed lots.

But consents that should have taken 20 days were issued months later and some are still outstanding.

He said the "bureaucracy, regulation and lack of willingness on the part of central and local government to front up" had made the process difficult.

14072016 Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King. Hobsonville is booming. Around 20% of the homes being built here will be affordable homes.

Nigel Hosken said the Special Housing Areas hadn't delivered speedier consents. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

He said many developers had quit Special Housing Areas because they not want to subsidise the affordable homes.

"I can think of a number of examples where council made it so difficult to get through the process that time disappeared, so why would the developer having paid all the bills then turn up and front up with a 10 percent discount on top? There's no incentive on a developer to do so," he said.

Auckland Council refused a request for an interview, but in a statement the director of regulatory services, Penny Pirrit said Auckland Council had "44 resource consents relating to the Hingaia SHA. Of those, 32 have been approved, 11 are in progress and one has been withdrawn".

She said the 11 applications awaiting approval were on hold while the council waited for further information and for water supply issues to be resolved between the developers and Veoila, which supplies water to the area.

"Unfortunately, until this happens, we are unable to issue the consents. The developers affected by this are all aware that this is the case," the statement said.

"The Housing Accord and Special Housing Areas Act was always intended to be an interim solution until the Auckland Unitary Plan came into effect and provided an end date when all SHAs would be disestablished," it said.

Developers within an SHA "have always had the choice of carrying out their developments under the SHA legislation or under the relevant operative plan".