Is the housing crisis over? How effective is the fast track planning process?

In our April 2022 article we talked about housing supply and how the effective use of fast-track planning processes under the RMA could assist us, while on the other hand recognising the views of some economists that ‘the housing market boom is over’. While the latter could be considered to prevail the former, does this make the issue worst?

Even if the housing market boom is in fact over, there is a legacy issue that still needs to be dealt with in that while the problem may or may not increase – Hawkes Bay had the problem, and that problem remains.

Our concern is where does the motivation and funding come from to address the initial problem if there is a perception that end buyers are not there – especially in a climate of increasing building costs, uncertainty and greater onus around lending.

Further, while fast-track planning processes have been established under the RMA to speed up delivery, is the motivation there to take these up, especially when from the outset they are still relatively daunting processes and not necessarily quick relative to the somewhat volatile environment we’re playing in.

We’re finding ourselves thinking a lot more about what planning process may be the best for a given development scenario – is it a standard subdivision resource consent process? Should it include a concurrent land use consent to allow houses to be built quicker – noting that this may involve investment prior to the certainty of consent, or is the Covid 19 Recovery (Fast Track Consenting) Act 2020 the better option? This option may work well for development where the actual built outcome is known, but not so well for subdivision where various development scenarios would need to be provided up front with little flexibility during implementation.

On the other hand, while many of the limitations around resource consenting processes can be addressed through a Schedule 1 District Plan Change process, these are typically longer processes, and while the Streamlined Planning Process was introduced to try and speed these up through limiting appeals, there are entry criteria and approval is required by the Minster.

All these options have their own advantages and disadvantages and its all about matching the circumstances of the proposal to the process. The point is, without a high level of motivation, they are all daunting. So, if motivation is dropping or the appetite for risk is dropping, or does indeed drop, what then?

The answer lies in working together, and our observations are that our Councils are very open to this – in fact they’re doing it. Examples include 18 houses completed on Korowhai Street Flaxmere, funded by MHUD, built by Soho Development and managed by Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga, housing completed at Kainga Ora’s 40-lot development at Kauri Street/Place, Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga and Waingakau building 120+ houses for intergenerational whanau, and similar infill developments being completed by both Kainga Ora and private developersin Napier.

We’ve been fortunate to have been involved in the planning of a lot of these developments and have certainly noticed a theme of greater collaboration and smart resourcing to reduce risk and build certainty earlier in the process.

If we can achieve this, then confidence, or at the very least, comfort, is maintained, motivation is sustained, outcomes are delivered, people are housed, and our region is as great as we all know it can be.

We think it’s important to think outside the square, be open to working together differently and leverage off the strengths or opportunities of others – while being aware of the limitations and drivers of the various players involved. It may seem cliché, but collaboration from start to finish is where ‘easy’, or at least ‘easier’, is probably going to be found.