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5 ways to get more homes

by Conor Hill
Wellington City’s Spatial Plan has five big issues that need resolving in the District Plan. Solving these issues would lead to a better city with more homes.

Issue 1: You can’t even build a granny flat in many parts of Wellington

The rules which govern what you can and can’t build in various suburbs are a complete mess. In Newtown you can build a granny flat by right, but in Johnsonville you can’t. In Aro Valley your home can occupy 45% of the section whereas further out you can only use 20% of a section. Our “character” suburbs have many tiny sections, but in newer suburbs, sections 3 or 4 times as big would be illegal.

These are just some of the insane discrepancies which rule suburban Wellington, and which our Spatial Plan suggested leaving largely untouched. In this plan vast swathes of Wellington are still zoned for “detached housing”, meaning you’d struggle to build a small place for your elderly mother to live in, let alone anything slightly more ambitious.

We should of course allow people the freedom to build what suits their needs on their own property. If that means a granny flat, or a group of friends purchasing together to build co-housing, we should enable this. Detached house zoning, which remains all over Seatoun, Wadestown, and maybe half of Wellington, needs to go altogether. This should be replaced by a zone which allows low-rise attached housing. Three storeys, multiple homes on one section, and small section sizes along with a few other key permissions should occur. After all, this is the kind of housing that was originally allowed in our so called character suburbs.

Issue 2: Height limits in the city centre need reviewing.

There are some parts of our city centre that could do with taller buildings. During the Spatial Plan debate last year it was proposed that unlimited heights should be allowed throughout the city centre. This was voted down. However it should never have been this binary. Height limits in our centre are currently based around an arbitrary split between “high city” and “low city”. I doubt more than a few dozen Wellingtonians could identify the boundaries of each, let alone explain why the two exist. It’s worth reviewing our height limits in a fashion which allows for some more storeys in a few places.

Issue 3: The district plan does not reflect mass transit plans

It’s now been revealed that mass transit will go to both south and east Wellington. Any mass transit station will be zoned for 6 storeys within a 10 minute walk. In November we should be getting detail on where those stations will be. Hopefully all mass transit options will have stations at the same locations. Come November, the residential zoning in our district plan needs to reflect where those stations will be.

Issue 4: Not enough greenfield zoning

Fundamentally we need more homes. If these occur in new areas so be it. If these new housing zones allow density, commercial activity and active and public transport they can be great places. In fact, given how bad most greenfield development is in NZ, it should be simple to build better. We simply need to learn from other people’s mistakes.

Issue 5: Wellington City is a tiny market.

Wellington City is a very small place. By making our own rules, we make it very difficult for home builders to deal with us. To get around this, our zoning needs to reflect zoning used in bigger markets. In short, Wellington’s different residential zones need to reflect the equivalent Auckland zone – or be more permissive. This would make it easier for Kainga Ora, and Auckland and overseas-based homebuilders to operate in the Wellington market. This is surely a better outcome than having the Council do various deals with well connected developers, the likes of which have been well canvassed by Wellington.Scoop over the years.

If the council can do these five things as well as the changes outlined in the spatial plan, they will have done most of what could reasonably expected around zoning to enable more homes in Wellington.

Given the ever spiralling housing crisis that enthrals Wellington, it is the least we should expect of them.

50 comments:

  1. Claire, 10. October 2021, 11:28

    Conor: good to see suggestions other than the tired campaign against heritage suburbs, which already allow 2 to 3 storey buildings. Newtown has 250 builds recently completed or near completion. Yes great swathes of Wellington are still single storey; let’s look at making them the same as the inner suburbs 2 to 3 storeys.

     
  2. Dave, 10. October 2021, 12:06

    I completely agree with your points. The rules need rationalising and bringing up to date.
    How about also moving the airport out of town?

     
  3. Marko, 10. October 2021, 16:36

    To make it clear, Conor is advocating for these five changes in addition to the spatial plan’s changes to character and height limits.
    He wants the Spatial Plan to go further – and I agree.

     
  4. Ray Chung, 10. October 2021, 19:21

    Conor, do you know why these suburbs have different classifications? Regarding the Mass Transit routes, the government has designated the Johnsonville line a Mass Transit System. However, I doubt that any government officials or MPs have ever been on the Johnsonville line. It’s slow, averaging 27km/hr, unreliable and is running at capacity because it’s only a single line and cannot take the number of extra passengers that the six-storey proposal will bring. I’m all for expanding to greenfields and brownfields and it seems to me that the council is looking for the easy fix rather than the best thing to get more reasonably priced houses. Building up to six storeys and higher is very expensive.

     
  5. Roland Sapsford, 10. October 2021, 22:05

    Out of curiosity, Marko and Conor, why do you ignore the massive amount of brownfields land in our city? There is more than enough vacant and under-developed land to house 50-100,000 people without touching heritage and character. Perhaps the issue is that a focus on active partnerships to develop that massive opportunity that wouldn’t align with a neoliberal deregulatory agenda?

     
  6. Codger, 11. October 2021, 7:55

    How on earth did the lefties overlook all that vacant land when they voted on the spatial plan?

     
  7. Jim, 11. October 2021, 10:19

    I don’t know why people keep bringing up brownfield sites as if they are excluded from the Spatial Plan. They are not being ignored in any shape or form. The plan allows these sites to be developed just like it allows other sites to be developed. It would make the district plan incredibly complex to pick selected sites and note them as “appropriate for development.” How would these be determined? Who decides what site is under-utilised? Would the commentator be happy with a site like the old 60’s warehouses between Ferguson and Daniell St being transformed into a 6 level apartment block? What about all the buildings along Newtown Ave?

    “Character” and “Heritage” should not be a broad brush applied to the inner city suburbs. Just because a building is old doesn’t mean it is worthy of heritage protection. Character is meaningless as it’s highly subjective.

    Claire – yes, inner city suburbs only allow 2-3 storeys at the moment, which is part of the problem as it restricts large areas of inner city land to low-density structures. It is non-sensical. Again, the spatial plan also covers the outer suburbs to allow the 2-3 levels (and more) you note they should allow – they are not excluded.

     
  8. Claire, 11. October 2021, 11:19

    Jim: It is not difficult to put an emphasis on brownfields and major streets for development. People are mapping that as we speak. People in Newtown are behind a local plan to develop brownfields in Newtown, with owners ready to go. Newtown Avenue is zoned commercial so could be developed any time as are other parts of Newtown. Inner suburbs are behind more housing and they are mapping it.
    Other parts of Wellington Seatoun etc are one level detached and not in the DSP. As Roland says, the under utilised land is far bigger than the paltry amount to be gained in lazy scattergun planning.

     
  9. K, 11. October 2021, 11:35

    Excellent article – issue 1 really bugs me, such a no brainer that all existing suburbs should allow infill housing.

     
  10. Marko, 11. October 2021, 12:12

    Many of the underdeveloped sites have laughably restrictive zoning – look at lower Adelaide Road and half of Te Aro in the current District Plan! Plus you can still be dragged through the Environment Court by a single determined submitter over tiny details. Spatial Plan, new District Plan and RMA reform should sort that out. Also a lot of the often derided “under-utilised land” is still valuable – people will still want spots for Bunnings and Spotlight in the city!

    Fundamentally you cannot fit the required amount of homes to address our massive shortage + future population on a few old industrial sites. It’s simple geometry. It’s a pretty sad state of affairs to gate off “character” suburbs while pointing to a few brownfields sites for everyone else. Becky Kiddle’s op ed points this out in better words than mine.

     
  11. Jim, 11. October 2021, 12:46

    Claire – I didn’t say it was difficult to put emphasis on Brownfield areas, which are included in the spatial plan anyway. I noted that “only” allowing the development of brownfield/under-utilised sites is difficult because it hinges on a number of factors – ie: what counts as “under-utilised”? The Newtown Local Plan is still very limiting for the owners of the sites. I’m not sure why it’s scattergun to include all the areas you and Roland note + a greater area of most suburbs – as opposed to the limited areas you both propose?

    Seatoun is up to 2 levels in the majority and 3 levels in the centre. It is not included because it’s not on a major transport route – or within walking distance of the inner city. Unlike Newtown, Mt. Cook, Berhampore, Thorndon and Mt. Vic.

     
  12. Claire, 11. October 2021, 13:28

    Marko: it would only be you who would refer to Newtown as a gated community. It has the largest amount of social housing in Wellington, actually towers – ten of them on the edges of the suburb. And don’t confuse home owners in older houses with colonists. Much more care should have been taken with Maori built history, so let’s not make the same mistake with history down the timeline.

     
  13. Conor, 11. October 2021, 14:59

    Roland and Claire – I’m not suggesting brownfield sites be excluded from rezoning. Personally I think the niche targeting of brownfield sites like Shelly Bay and Erskine College has been quite a struggle for minimal net gain. But if you think that’s the right path, by all means convince Wellington. Also – a house on a section that could accomodate more houses is a brownfield site.
    Ray – if building up to 6 storeys is uneconomic it won’t happen, and you have nothing to worry about.
    And yes, Marko is basically correct – in my eyes, the changes to the spatial plan were a good start, but didn’t go far enough. Public debate centred on character, and other issues need rectification in the District Plan. For instance changes to height limits and additional greenfield zoning were amendments voted on with limited discussion prior, and no nuance.

     
  14. Ben Schrader, 11. October 2021, 17:46

    Conor, Marko and Jim – I generally support urban intensification for all the reasons you espouse. But I worry that deregulation will encourage developers to build poor-quality intensive housing that might be slums-in-the-making. (Auckland’s Nelson Street comes to mind.)

    What are your ideas about ensuring that intensification improves the quality of the urban fabric? Should dwellings have to reach a certain design/aesthetic standard, or is this something that should be left to developers to decide?

    How would you provide sunny and green public space for apartment dwellers to socialise in or people watch? Should there be more playgrounds and a dog park in the inner city? (Many apartment blocks allow companion animals.) How would you ensure there are spaces for people to go to in the wind and rain where they don’t have to buy something to be there?

    These are the types of amenities that are necessary to making higher density living both successful and sustainable. Who do you think should provide these types of amenities: developers or the council? And how would you make it happen? These aren’t trick questions. I’m genuinely interested in your views.

     
  15. Peter Steven, 11. October 2021, 19:11

    Conor Hill for Mayor!

     
  16. Kara, 11. October 2021, 19:45

    If Conor Hill is going to stand for the Mayoralty then we the voters need to know much more about his kaupapa than infill housing.

     
  17. Dave B, 11. October 2021, 22:56

    Ray Chung, please allow me to comment on your statement about the Johnsonville Line: “It’s slow, averaging 27km/hr, unreliable and is running at capacity because it’s only a single line and cannot take the number of extra passengers”

    It is not unreliable, except for the large number of planned bus-replacements for line-upgrade work. Its punctuality-measure is higher than the other lines, although the most recent statistics are from 2019, pre-Covid.

    The line is not “running at capacity”. Unfortunately it has been losing patronage year-on-year to the high-frequency Wellington-Johnsonville bus service which does the run significantly quicker except when traffic is congested. Patronage from Johnsonville Station has fallen right off, although patronage from the intermediate stations which have no high-frequency bus continues to hold up. Rarely are all seats taken in the current 4-car peak-hour consists, and these could be increased to 6-car without too much difficulty. So there is plenty more potential capacity on the line.

    Yes it is slow, and 27Km/h is about right for its average speed. Unfortunately its timetable was slowed down from 21 minutes to 23 minutes at the last timetable change which has not helped its competitiveness with the bus. The bus is timetabled at 14-15 min for most services, though some morning-peak services are timetabled at 20-30 min. The other advantage the bus has is that it travels through the CBD and on to Island Bay while the train kicks everyone out at the northern edge of the CBD. This is an inherent handicap to the rail system which generations of politicians and planners have failed to fix.

     
  18. Jim, 11. October 2021, 23:45

    Hi Ben. All very valid questions. I agree that new developments need to be well considered in their designs – whether it’s a 10-story apartment block or a infill townhouse complex. As you note, green and communal spaces are vital in creating decent communities. The inclusion of these spaces needs to be covered by the revised district plan.
    For it to work I think there would need to be incentives. This could be in the form of additional height if part of the site was converted into a public park – or if the top floor was communal space.
    Sunlight access can be mitigated by step backs for taller portions of the build – for examples: anything over x levels needs to be stepped back 5m for the remaining floors.
    I would like to see the council secure several sites for public spaces too – the car parks on Cuba and Ghuznee streets are two which are wasted opportunities.
    Maybe as an alternative to the developmer providing onsite green-space (if it’s too small) they could provide a “parks development fund” that goes towards new WCC parks.

    The new district plan needs to be radical for the spatial plan to be implemented successfully. Doing it half-cooked isn’t going to work.

     
  19. Roland Sapsford, 12. October 2021, 1:01

    Marko – thanks for taking the time for a thoughtful reply. In my view the evidence does not align with your comments. The gated community point has been addressed above. On others, you wrote:

    “Many of the underdeveloped sites have laughably restrictive zoning – look at lower Adelaide Road and half of Te Aro in the current District Plan!”

    Both these areas have been “upzoned” for a long time. Almost all of Te Aro is zoned for 7-9 storeys and 100% site coverage within the Central Area. You can do both of these as of right. Developments are controlled activities – meaning consent cannot be refused and nothing is notified – and the only controls applying are design-related (and in some cases wind related) (Refer Map 16 Operative District Plan and associated index). Adelaide Rd between the Basin Reserve and John St has similar zoning and has been upzoned for over a decade (refer Maps 6 and 16 Operative District Plan). Current projects in that area reflect this permissive zoning.

    “Plus you can still be dragged through the Environment Court by a single determined submitter over tiny details.” This statement does not reflect the current reality in Wellington City. Fewer than 0.5% of resource consents are even notified in Wellington City. Almost all Character Areas demolition consents have been non-notified. For something to get to the Environment Court – which is expensive and time consuming – you need to have been a party to the consent hearing. Non-notified consents can only be appealed by the applicant (and a few statutory parties to all consents). There are issues at the WCC with inconsistent application of rules and delays due to staff shortages, but these are unrelated to notification or submitters.

    “Spatial Plan, new District Plan and RMA reform should sort that out.” You mean they will take away people’s rights to have any say in how their community is developed? Why not just say that? Its fine to advocate for the primacy of markets and wealth over community democracy. In my view, taking away basic democratic rights is a serious matter and deserves plain speech so people understand what is being lost.

    “Also a lot of the often derided “under-utilised land” is still valuable – people will still want spots for Bunnings and Spotlight in the city.” Spotlight and Bunnings can occupy the ground floor as they do in the European cities which people love. However, this is generally the result of careful planning rather than deregulation. Here’s a real world current example. There is a new Countdown proposed for Cable St – people who cared about housing might want to see that as 6 or 7 storeys of housing with a Countdown on the ground floor, rather than a 1-2 storey building with single level parking as proposed. Just sayin….

    Which brings me to your last point: “Fundamentally you cannot fit the required amount of homes to address our massive shortage + future population on a few old industrial sites.” Actually, if you look at vacant, derelict, car parking and low quality post-1960 industrial/commercial you can do just that. We are all somewhat accustomed to the vast amounts of this land threaded through the city and tend to under-estimate its scale, but to visitors from cities without this waste of space, it’s really odd.

    I appreciate that you may prefer a market based solution where developers have few restrictions, but this is an ideological choice rather than the only solution to our housing crisis. Many successful cities around the world focus on prioritising and sequencing sites so as to ensure affordable housing, quality public spaces and built heritage coexist.

     
  20. Conor, 12. October 2021, 11:44

    Roland – the approach you advocate for has delivered Erskine, the 3 million dollar apartments on the old wharf and the hugely expensive apartments on Chews Lane. It’s being used at Shelly Bay and the Willis Bond development next to Michael Fowler centre. It’s an approach that works best for well connected, deep pocketed developers.
    Yet somehow the people who think someone should easily be able to build a few small units for their family in their backyard, or that some friends should be able to join together to build some medium density co-housing, or that papakainga should be able to be built at scale are the neoliberals.

     
  21. Richie Bestingface, 12. October 2021, 12:49

    …be able to build a few small units for their family in their backyard, or that some friends should be able to join together to build some medium density co-housing”

    Conor, do you think that’s really going to happen and if it did, at a scale that will make any difference?

     
  22. Roland Sapsford, 12. October 2021, 13:16

    Conor – ummm – so are you saying you would prefer this land to be empty and the buildings derelict, and see existing liveable homes demolished instead?

    Do you think that leaving under-developed land unused will lead to cheaper developments? Affordability in general comes through public sector development and partnerships.

    Moreover, you can “build a few small units for their family in their backyard, or that some friends should be able to join together to build some medium density co-housing” at the moment. In some cases you might need consent, because the public interest as well as your personal interests need to be considered.

    A huge amount of infill dwellings have been able to be built over the last two decades, in Character areas and elsewhere. There is scope for much more under existing rules.

    There is also huge scope to build “papakainga at scale” through development partnerships and the use of masterplans. Again this is pretty standard internationally. I imagine people who want to develop such housing may also be interested in good quality durable urban environments, and strong community connections.

    You are advocating for an approach where there should be minimal rules. You also argue against community led processes to create affordable housing in thriving communities. Yet Newtown, for example, has already developed an alternative plan, which provides more housing more quickly than the deregulatory approach. Why is this a bad thing? LNeoliberalism is all about removing rules, giving primacy to wealth and reducing democracy, while claiming that is all being done in the name of benefitting the least privileged. To me that sounds like the approach you and others are advocating.

     
  23. Jim, 12. October 2021, 17:08

    Roland. No one is proposing to exclude brownfields. The status quo is clearly not working, and the Newtown RA plan is far less then what is proposed under the Spatial Plan – it restricts development to the main street and areas that the RA has “approved”. Whilst a good start it is still very limiting.

    Zavos Corner in Mt. Victoria is a good example of the problems with the DP/non-sensical rules. Because the site had an old building on it, local residents had the option to oppose it – and oppose they did. Delaying a project because they don’t like the look of it is not beneficial. It was a fully compliant three-level building and yet people fought to try and prevent it.

    The various “RA”/special interest groups claim they would happily allow new buildings that comply with the rules. This example makes me doubt that.

     
  24. Claire, 12. October 2021, 18:09

    Jim: The DSP has allocated Newtown up to 1000 units over 30 years. The Newtown plan by Red Design Architects is for 2000 units. It includes the main street and Mansfield Street, and other sites in the commercial zone streets leading into the main street, for example Newtown Ave, Arney Street. The best thing is that at least 12 of the owners want to develop and some have plans.

     
  25. JAB, 12. October 2021, 19:24

    Roland: Thank you for your insight and thoughtful questions. Community solutions are likely to be a lot more thoughtful than developer led ones. I remain puzzled as to why top down solutions take priority over those devised by residents.
    Marko/Jim: You say the situation is not working but this “solution” is not likely to lead to affordable housing for rent or purchase. Do you support a blanket ban on any of this housing being sold to any offshore interest? Otherwise we may end up with blocks of flats offshore owned and locals paying rents forever.
    Jim: So developers will need further incentives to keep some green space on a site? Shouldn’t a useable outside space be part of a good development? Unless the units have access to a private outside space, people cannot have a glass of wine in the sun unless they purchase it – this little right has been commercialised by the council.

     
  26. Ben Schrader, 12. October 2021, 20:02

    Thanks for your reply Jim. It confirms to me that a careful regulatory framework (decreeing things like setbacks) and considered interventions (like creating green spaces on brownfield sites) are important to delivering successful city environments. On this point, I read today that the City of Melbourne has just appointed two panels comprising 40 designers and developers to review new city developments for architectural merit and quality. According to the deputy lord mayor, Nicholas Reece, ‘Melbourne has allowed too many “crap” buildings to be erected.’ He said it was time ‘to end featureless glass towers and monotonous walls that benefit developers but not the public.’ This is an initiative our own city should certainly follow.

     
  27. Ray Chung, 12. October 2021, 20:24

    Conor. If developers are allowed to build up to six storeys 15 minutes walk from the Johnsonville train line, they will. It’s not a question of being economical, as all apartments sell off the plans. The point I’m making is that I don’t consider it good to have six-storey buildings in amongst all the single and two-storey housing.
    Dave B. I demur about the reliability of the Johnsonville line as I catch this every week and it’s often replaced with buses. When I talk about the Johnsonville line being at capacity, I meant that from a technical perspective it’s not possible to put on more carriages or run the service more frequently without double-tracking the network. So if the population along the Johnsonville line was increased significantly with six-storey apartments, and if these people travelled into the CBD to work, would there be sufficient capacity on the trains or buses to cope with extra passengers?

     
  28. nemo, 13. October 2021, 8:17

    Ray Chung: regarding Johnsonville. You say “I don’t consider it good to have six-storey buildings in amongst all the single and two-storey housing” and yet no doubt you also wish to have a thriving Johnsonville Mall, one day. Clearly it is not thriving at present – more a state of limping along, with plans for a major redevelopment having been delayed now for, how many? 10 years? 15 years? But the two issues are combined.

    Johnsonville is a hell-hole of rubbish shops and acres of asphalt at present (OK – with one good bakery, but not much else worth keeping), but what say we get rid of all that tat? How does this sound as an alternate vision to you: Allow the owners to redevelop the Johnsonville Mall, in a grand new vision, with two floors of shopping, with car parking on top, and then topped with 6 storeys of apartments on top of that? Before you throw your hands up in horror, question yourself: why not? Why not accept that Johnsonville is well set up with a lovely train ride down to the main CBD and allow an increased number of people both to live in J’ville and also to give economic impetus so that it doesn’t just survive, but instead it thrives!

    If you want to lead Wellington as a Mayoral candidate next elections, you need to have a big vision for our city and our suburbs, and not think small and timid. Think ahead Ray, and think of a bright, growing future, not a stale one.

     
  29. Greenwelly, 13. October 2021, 9:43

    @Ray Chung, the Johnsonville line is nowhere near capacity. Pre Covid peak boardings were around 100K a month, ie about 5000 per day (20 workday month). A 6-car Matangi set has capacity for 1000ppl (seat+standees), there are currently around 10 morning and 10 evening peak services, so there’s a daily peak capacity of 20,000…. or around 4 times current usage.

     
  30. Conor, 13. October 2021, 12:04

    One thing we can all agree on – it’s great to gave community input! Great to have Marko, Jim and groups like Renters United and Generation Zero involved.

     
  31. Roland Sapsford, 13. October 2021, 12:27

    Hi Jim. You comment “No one is proposing to exclude brownfields” but, and it’s a big but, the Spatial Plan has no FOCUS on the opportunity brownfields present. So there is no priority given to developing these sites first. In essence the Spatial Plan says it’s OK to leave even more land vacant or poorly utilised. In essence, the Spatial Plan accepts and welcomes landbanking.

    We all agree “the status quo is clearly not working” but I think you mean the planning rules, whereas I mean the lack of quality affordable housing. You assume this is caused by the planning system, and myself and others are saying that is a dangerous assumption. A key piece of evidence as to why blaming the planning system is wrong is the amount of brownfields land already existing. Why not make good use of what we have already, before focussing on destroying existing housing?

    “the Newtown RA plan is far less then what is proposed under the Spatial Plan – it restricts development to the main street.” The Newtown plan may upzone less but it will also lead to faster development of that land, and so can deliver more housing faster. In my view you are equating the amount upzoned with the amount of housing. This is a false equivalence – the rate at which land is developed (realised capacity) is a policy variable. If you upzone less and deliver a greater percentage of what is upzoned, you can meet quality, affordability, heritage and other goals without taking away basic democratic rights.

    Finally, you use the word “limiting” as though it’s a bad thing. This is why I see this is simply reincarnated neoliberalism. Another word for limits is values. If we can have community-led planning that delivers more housing faster and enables new and old residents to have a sense of place and connection, that seems preferable. This is fundamentally a discussion about whether we focus on quality, democracy and partnership or deregulation. Both sets of people say that want more housing. The “upzone everywhere” advocates seeem remarkably silent on community, democracy, quality and other non-market issues, except when these can be co-opted to support deregulation.

     
  32. Claire, 13. October 2021, 13:29

    Conor: don’t forget residents of Wellington and other groups and communities with differing opinions who are also working on housing solutions.
    Looking inside one bubble is not going to give all the answers.

     
  33. Jim, 13. October 2021, 13:55

    JAB – Yes, a good development will have these spaces provided. I am not referring to balconies or patio/gardens attached to townhouses, as these are generally provided. The incentives I note would be larger communal space for the residents, the public or both. These would be balanced w/ the private outdoor spaces.

    Affordable houses is always going to be tricky – however we can see from Auckland and Melbourne that a increase in supply can lead to a reduction in rents. We have a shortage of homes across the board – not just at the “affordable end.” Regardless, I don’t think this should be a reason to prevent more houses being built. The “it’s not going to work – so lets not try anything” attitude gets us nowhere.

    Claire – The 1000 units for Newtown under the DSP are based on what they expect will be needed. The areas noted under the NRA plan are also included in the Spatial plan – so those numbers would also be possible and all those areas noted would still be able to be developed. The owners wh0 want to develop still could. My point is that the DSP doesn’t stop anything under the NRA proposal – so why go with the more limiting option?

    Ben – yes, the Melbourne model is excellent and I would like to see us implement a similar panel to advise and approve design proposals. The Nightingale Housing scheme is excellent and it would be great to have similar schemes here.

     
  34. Ray Chung, 13. October 2021, 15:33

    Hi Nemo, thanks for your reply. I think I need to be a bit more succinct when talking about medium density housing. I was at the council meeting when Stride said they wanted a minimum of 18 storeys on the Johnsonville Mall site, with the mall on the lower floors and perhaps a couple of floors of commercial offices and apartments for the remaining 12-13 storeys. This is following the model from cities in Japan and Singapore and I wholeheartedly support it. I agree that Johnsonville is very tired and could be a superb centre servicing the northern suburbs between Tawa and Karori. It has an abundance of land that could be developed. Where I object to six-storey developments are in the suburban “villages” like Khandallah, Ngaio and Northland.

     
  35. Ray Chung, 13. October 2021, 15:42

    Greenwelly; thanks for this. If more higher-density housing is built along the Johnsonville line and quadruples the number of commuters coming into town, I feel that these trains will be overloaded. I typically go into Wellington from the Khandallah station between 7.30-8am and the trains are regularly busy and I couldn’t envisage having four times as many commuters on these units.

     
  36. Roland Sapsford, 13. October 2021, 15:50

    “One thing we can all agree on – it’s great to gave community input! Great to have Marko, Jim and groups like Renters United and Generation Zero involved.” I agree – let’s hope that we can have some dialogue across viewpoints which is grounded in evidence and experience. We saw a lot of simplistic narratives and deliberate polarisation with the Spatial Plan process. I am always keen to work with anyone on how to create productive community conversations!

     
  37. Claire, 13. October 2021, 16:29

    Jim: it’s a Red Design (architects) plan endorsed by NRA. The DSP has mapped an area in the middle of Newtown that would gut some heritage areas agreed by Boffa Miskel to be of consistent character. Once you put in a large building a domino effect will occur. So Newtown does not endorse that. It would effectively cut Newtown in half, and put larger buildings in a laughably inappropriate place. So hence the eminently better alternative plan, along transport routes as it should be.

     
  38. Conor, 14. October 2021, 8:15

    Roland – It’s true, I don’t agree with rules that say doctors and nurses coming off nightshift to their new homes have to sleep in bedrooms bathed in light . Our 1180 page draft district plan does just this, banning south facing bedrooms (a staple of “character” homes).

     
  39. Roland Sapsford, 14. October 2021, 8:48

    Conor – Wow, how did you get there? Nice switch though – acknowledging that deregulation will result in sunlight being blocked for many people and trying to sell that as an advantage 🙂

    I’d gently suggest if you have concerns about hospital staff, you’d want more to have the option of living closer to work. And if you cared about that, you’d be interested in why there is no housing on the vast parking sites on the corner of Mein and Riddiford St? Clue – it’s nothing to do with the planning system. Go most well.

     
  40. Toni, 14. October 2021, 9:50

    Conor: You say that “our 1180 page draft district plan does just this, banning south facing bedrooms (a staple of “character” homes)”. Surely it is not possible to have all rooms north facing, so are the living areas in new homes going to be south facing, which will be pretty dismal? Seems crazy because as long as new homes are well insulated it shouldn’t matter where the bedrooms are.

     
  41. Julienz, 14. October 2021, 11:09

    Despite the Spatial Plan changes, most of the land in Wellington City remains zoned for Type 1 – one to two storey houses – that is, no change. So, if you live within ten minutes of the Johnsonville train, which as Ray Chung has said is slow and has limited capacity, then you might have an apartment building of at least six storeys turn up blocking out all your sun. But if you are on a bus route, or nearer to a school, or nearer to your work, but outside the magic circle of the train you will have to battle all and sundry to be able to build so much as a granny flat, let alone build two three storey townhouses on your land.

    What about a new approach? Instead of fighting with the Council to satisfy them that your proposal meets the District Plan regulations, or spending years in the Environment Court fighting your neighbours, or just deciding it is too hard and not even trying to build on your land at all, let’s work on agreeing in advance on at least some things that can definitely happen.

    Consider for a moment the comments of architect, Inga Saffron, quoted on Slate.com: “It’s not unusual to hear YIMBYs declare that neighborhood character is irrelevant. They insist that any new apartment building is a blow for justice, no matter how grotesque its design. They seem incapable of understanding that it’s deeply human to care about what our surroundings look like. Context and details matter.” Pro-housing activists make a mistake, Saffron says, when they invariably identify their opponents’ interest in good neighborhood design as bad faith or bigotry.”

    The article goes on to describe an alternative: “The city of Bryan, Texas, is experimenting with a … program that aims to jump-start the construction of “missing middle housing,” the type of small, multifamily infill that once populated urban neighborhoods across the (USA). Bryan … is trying a technique called “pattern zoning.” As of fall 2020, the city has four designs on file for its Midtown area, which can be downloaded, remixed, customized, and deployed free of charge—permit included.”

    Why can’t Wellington do something like this throughout the inner and outer suburbs? Yes, it is a cookie cutter response but look at Tarikaka Street in Ngaio where houses now sell for prices in excess of a million dollars. It is a cookie cutter street. It works, it looks attractive and unlike a lot of Wellington’s so called character housing, WCC has seen fit, with no pushback I am aware of from residents or Yimbys, to maintain the entire street’s heritage status.

     
  42. Jim, 14. October 2021, 12:53

    Julienz – The spatial plan has resulted in a complete re-write of the District Plan so there is implemented change to all areas. In regards to our suggestion, you’re in luck. The new Draft District Plan allows for two housing units per site w/ the exception of three streets. The site coverage remains too low in my opinion, but that’s why we are having this feedback period. Would be better around the 60%.

     
  43. Julienz, 14. October 2021, 15:26

    Jim. That is not a really change from the current rules but building a second unit is still a mission. As I read the Draft “the General Residential Zone comprises predominantly residential activities with a variety of building types that are generally one or two storeys in height.” So medium density even if you are on a site where you can’t over shadow anyone will still be a hoop jumping exercise. What I am suggesting is an agreed in advance set of plans that WCC has vetted and agrees meet the design guidelines. If you want something different then you will have to go through 37 pages of design guide but if you go with the pre-approved pattern then subject to soil testing you can pick up the plans and the permit and get started on building. Low or no fees for the off the shelf plan and no resource consent process. There would have to be agreement on a specified type of site, size and shape, which I admit would need some thinking about in the Wellington context because we do have hills but it would just make everything so much easier. This article explains how it would work.

     
  44. Roland Sapsford, 14. October 2021, 18:37

    Julienz – that is very interesting idea and one which, if combined with a brownfields priority, could really jumpstart activity with few downsides.

    Myself and others have been trying to interest WCC in pre-fabricated buildings on brownfields sites as a fast way to create new capacity. Generally this has been opposed by Spatial Plan advocates. What you propose seems another great option. Perhaps we could even make the plans for the new WCC social housing between Taranaki and Hopper Sts freely available to further reduce costs?

     
  45. JAB, 14. October 2021, 22:08

    Jim: I still don’t see why developers need extra incentives to provide good outdoor private communal space. Any monetary contribution per built unit to buy any sort of central land for a green space is going to be very large. (Based on the lease value of the MFC carpark!) And if 6 storey buildings can’t be built as “good” planning, then why on earth would 7 storeys be better. I’d love to know cause I’m baffled.
    Roland: Still love your discussion. Would be nice if the council could give the residents of each area (Residents Assns) a base set of stats (need to house x number of people over y years, this number transit the area at peak hours etc) and then the community could with some help plot a solution?). Anything has to be better than the current adversarial positions.

     
  46. Steve Doole, 15. October 2021, 6:51

    How come Wellington isn’t expanding west ?
    100 years ago people built tunnels and bridges over this land, and they are still in use despite earthquakes. It can’t be that hard.

     
  47. Julienz, 15. October 2021, 12:43

    Steve : There seems to be a refusal to countenance a new suburb in Ohariu Valley and instead to leave it as lifestyle blocks which is in my view the most useless of all possible land uses. In the original “Planning for Growth” round 1 consultation, 29% supported a new suburb in Ohariu Valley (41% if you add the neutrals). “(A) very large number (around 250) of respondents who opposed this scenario did not offer a reason; a large number (between 100 and 149) cited urban sprawl and its associated negative impacts on rural land, increased vehicle emissions, and congestion as the main reasons for opposition.” There is potential for a state of the art green suburb with some creative thinking.
    Objections to commuting and sprawl seem relevant within the artificial boundary of Wellington City but aren’t sprawl and emissions in reality a regional and national issue? If we lock up Ohariu in lifestyle blocks, then people will move to other cities. It will be a hollow carbon zero victory for Wellington City when on the current model even more single people in vehicles will end up commuting from Porirua, the Hutt Valley, the Wairarapa and even Levin. Generally Ohariu Valley is not prime agricultural or horticultural land and on that basis it should be utilised for housing before we lose more highly productive soil in Levin and Ōtaki.

     
  48. Peter Steven, 15. October 2021, 15:35

    Julienz, ‘green suburb’ is an oxymoron. At least all those other places you mentioned have train services.

     
  49. D'Esterre, 16. October 2021, 13:19

    Nemo, it appears that you aren’t au fait with the history of the Johnsonville mall, at least since Stride has owned it. I’m guessing that there’d be a bit of eye-rolling on the part of locals at your comments. I can recall at least two fairly testy public meetings (possibly more) about Stride’s failure to do anything with the mall, despite having for many years had consent for development. The most recent of those meetings was just before the 2017 election, when the Labour candidate promised action. We’re still waiting.

    This is a populous area. It certainly needs a well-found shopping centre, and the mall’s location is ideal. But in our view, that will not now happen. The mall will be allowed to deteriorate, to the point that the owner will sell it for housing. There’ll be apartments, right enough: just no mall.

    Ray: yes indeed. The designation of the Johnsonville rail line as MRT would be risible, were it not farcical. But WCC hasn’t listened to us with regard to the spatial plan. There’s no reason to suppose either it or GWRC would pay attention to actual facts regarding the rail line, either.

     
  50. Ray Chung, 16. October 2021, 21:47

    D’Esterre, yes I agree. We had a public meeting in Johnsonville with Daran Ponter and Glenda Hughes from the Regional Council and when talking about the Johnsonville line, they agreed that it didn’t fit their view of what a Mass Transit System was, when the number 1 bus ran every 10 minutes and got you into the CBD in half the time. But will they do anything to help change this? I fear that you may be right about Stride and the Johnsonville Mall as they’ll be able to make more money out of apartments and isn’t that always what developers want?
    JAB: excellent idea and that’s exactly what we at ORCA are doing, but will the council listen?
    [Comments are now closed, as we’ve reached the maximum that our system can cope with.]

     

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