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Consensus on need for more affordable housing – but where?

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Initial analysis of nearly 3000 submissions to the Wellington City Council on the city’s draft Spatial Plan shows that Wellingtonians want a vibrant, liveable city and affordable housing as the housing crisis deepens across the country.

The submissions show that submitters were split on the quantity and location of the new houses but that there was wide consensus of the need to take action immediately to address a shortage of affordable housing and other issues such as infrastructure and climate change.

The analysis report presents the key themes of the submissions as the Government signals significant change in the resource management area.

Mayor Andy Foster says the results of the analysis reflect the conversations during the draft Spatial Plan engagement and highlight the complexity of resolving Wellington’s housing challenges alongside recognising the things the community values about the city.

“It’s clear that everyone wants what’s best for the city and people who live here and that the city wants us to lead on providing more affordable housing.

“We heard repeatedly that increasing housing supply and affordability should be a priority, along with caring for the built and natural environments. We also received feedback relating to the intrinsic value people placed on pre-1930s character, the priority placed on more affordable homes close to public transport and key services and the need for infrastructure upgrades.

“We’re continuing to undertake the complex planning work around the infrastructure required to support growth. Naturally some areas are cheaper to develop and some more expensive. Importantly in the short-term, areas of the city that will support growth need to be integrated with infrastructure planning and funding decisions.

“There is a concern among some that the intention of the Spatial Plan to densify the city will come at the expense of the quality of life and urban environment Wellingtonians already enjoy. Doing density well will be a key consideration as we move into the District Plan Review later this year.

“During the community engagement period that fed into the Spatial Plan I undertook a very valuable series of neighbourhood walkabouts with local councillors, talking with residents first-hand and seeing how they view the challenges and opportunities in balancing housing provision with protecting the characteristics they love about their neighbourhood.”

Liam Hodgetts, Wellington City Council’s Chief Planning Officer, says the Spatial Plan debate has been heightened by the Government’s new National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD) which directs councils to enable intensification in and around city centres, metropolitan centres and within walkable catchments of existing and planned rapid transit stops, such as railway stations. The NPS-UD requires the Council to place greater emphasis on enabling housing development than ever before.

Mr Hodgetts says while the NPS encourages and enables more dense and compact cities, it still allows the Council to protect historic heritage, open space, significant ecological areas and, where justified, special character areas such as those proposed in the draft Spatial Plan.

Wellingtonians made their views known to the City Council during the eight weeks of community engagement at the end of last year through a series of meetings, formal submissions and four days of hearings. The Council’s planning team is reviewing those submissions in detail to understand what changes are needed to give effect to public views.

This work is taking some time due to the large number of submissions, and to ensure people’s concerns and suggestions are given full consideration. The Council will finalise the plan in June. It will be considered alongside the Long-term Plan to help with investment decisions.

This final Spatial Plan will be a strategic document that will help shape the new District Plan which provides more detail about the rules for development. The District Plan Review will provide a further opportunity for Wellingtonians to have their say on how we manage future development and protect what is important to the city. A non-statutory Draft District Plan will be consulted on by the end of 2021, before notification of a statutory Proposed District Plan in 2022. The NPS-UD requires that the Council notify the changes to the Plan by August 2022.

Key findings

Below are some of the key findings uncovered through the analysis of respondent feedback:

Intensification

Intensification was the most commonly-discussed topic. There was a reasonably even split between those in favour of intensification, and those who opposed it.

Those in favour of intensification wanted to ensure Wellington is prepared for future growth and that positive outcomes are realised. These respondents wrote about the benefits that would result from intensification, which included more affordable housing, better proximity to amenities, higher quality housing, and a more compact city that would increase vibrancy.

Those who opposed intensification objected based on the things that they felt would be lost. In particular, respondents feared losing the character of established suburbs which some consider are an iconic aspect of Wellington. These comments tended to focus on whole areas or suburbs, particularly the inner suburbs, and noted the value of character homes for the wider community who enjoy them from the street, as well as those fortunate enough to live in them.

Character

Character was the main feature respondents were afraid of losing as a result of change. Many people believed that Wellington’s character is what makes the city special and felt the proposed changes in the Plan risk changing the character of the city forever.

Overall, there were two distinct opinions expressed on this topic. These two camps either placed strong value on heritage/character protection to retain Wellington’s special identity, or prioritised quality, affordable homes to encourage diversity – both architectural and human – over character protection.

Infrastructure

Respondents were doubtful that existing infrastructure would be able to handle projected growth, and therefore argued for infrastructure upgrades to be carried out prior to intensification.

Most frequently mentioned were ‘three-waters’ and transport infrastructure. Both of these were seen to be struggling to cope with existing demand, leading to issues with water management, sewerage, traffic congestion and parking.

The value of Wellington’s natural environment

Parks, green spaces, waterways, and biodiversity were mentioned by respondents who valued Wellington’s natural environment.

Respondents wanted the Plan to include provision of more green and open spaces for residents, particularly as the city densifies. Calls were also made for the Council to incorporate more wildlife and biodiversity protection and enhancement into the Plan.

Respondents appreciated the provisions put in the plan around climate change and sustainability. Others wanted to see proactive measures included in the Plan to reduce Wellington’s carbon footprint, as well as more robust planning for sea-level rise, earthquake hazards and any other natural disasters.

7 comments:

  1. Claire, 17. February 2021, 10:05

    Wellington has spoken. It seems there is no mandate for demolishing older houses and putting up buildings anywhere through character suburbs. WCC it’s time to step up brownfield development and in Adelaide Road. This would have been mentioned a million times in submissions. Put the houses in appropriate places.

     
  2. Andrew H, 17. February 2021, 15:10

    Encourage or incentivise office tenants to consolidate into fewer office blocks in the city centre, then convert the vacated buildings into apartments. That reduces commuter transport and encourages retail and hospo trading in the CBD.

    There are also plenty of brownfield sites to develop which are already on commuter routes.

     
  3. Jane, 17. February 2021, 17:33

    Did we read the same article here, Claire? This one suggests there are two distinct opposing groups but neither seems to hold a monopoly on opinion. Based on this I feel it’s a stretch to say “Wellington has spoken”.

     
  4. Claire, 17. February 2021, 21:08

    Jane. The submissions have been analysed. The information from the WCC says that only 44% support density in the inner suburbs. So I was reacting to that report. It gives a breakdown for Newtown also.

     
  5. Jane, 18. February 2021, 1:40

    Thank you for pointing me towards the report, Claire! Have just had a read through and it’s given me hope. A minor correction: it’s 46% support for intensification in the Inner Suburbs, not 44%. I’m surprised at how high this is, considering those against intensification seem much more visible, vocal and motivated.

     
  6. Claire, 18. February 2021, 8:53

    Jane there has always been building in Newtown, and acceptance of taller building along and behind the commercial strip. It’s already zoned four storeys. But nothing has really happened. The thing people object to is the idea of pepper potting through the cottages, very poor urban design. Have a read of Felicity’s article up now on wellington.scoop. If you look at Newtown on its own by suburb: very much more were against the pepper potting than the 46%.

     
  7. I blame remuera, 18. February 2021, 14:42

    Claire the statistics do not count all those who did not give themselves as for or against; neutral and don’t know answers are included in the figure from which that 46% etc comes. What speaks very plainly is skyrocketing house prices, rents and homelessness.