Thursday, January 31, 2013

Consent constraint

From the Christchurch Press.

Item the first: there's a boom in building consent applications.
With the rebuild ramping up, the Christchurch City Council is struggling to find enough qualified people to process the hundreds of building consent applications it receives each month.
Building activity in the city has jumped markedly in the past four months, with the number of consent applications now at levels unseen since the peak of the 2007 building boom.
Many applications then were for minor building work that is now exempt from building consent requirements.
The council is dealing with a similar volume of applications, but the work is complex residential earthquake repairs and rebuilds.
Wow, they're busy. Ok. Item the second:
Of the 281 new homes approved in November [for the Canterbury region as a whole], 96 were in Christchurch and 185 in other Canterbury districts, figures show.
So Christchurch Council in December 2012 approved the construction of ninety-six new houses. 96.*

The Canterbury region as a whole had 4037 new dwelling consents approved in 2012.

If you go to the StatsNZ underlying data, you'll find Christchurch City approved 1,506 new dwellings in 2012.

Auckland as a whole had 4,581 new dwelling approvals. Auckland has a lot more people than Christchurch: roughly four times as many. And they only had three times as many new dwelling consents as Christchurch did.

So Christchurch Council approved a few more new dwellings than Auckland did, relative to population.

But more than 6000 homes in Christchurch were set for demolition because they sat in the Red Zone. And there are non-red-zoned houses that have to be demolished.

Some low income families in Christchurch live in tents and garages.

None of the low-income cohort that feature in the all-too-frequent Press exposes of Christchurch housing problems would ever be able to afford any of the stuff now being built, nor could they even if consenting were eased such that land prices could drop. They benefit instead when richer people move into new houses,  freeing up space in existing housing stock.

If approving new dwellings is too complicated and hard, Council could ease its burden by making it legal for owners of existing dwellings to build a rental flat into the existing house. A couple interior walls, a kitchen, and a bit of plumbing - pretty simple. Shame it's banned.** And, again, even if the people currently living in tents and garages couldn't afford those new units, they might be able to afford the places vacated by those moving into the new units. Or the places vacated by those moving into the places vacated by those moving into the new units.

Sometimes, allowing that more steps be built at the top or the middle of the ladder isn't a bad way of letting the folks at the bottom climb up a rung.

* In January, Christchurch Council also closed 31 social housing units because they no longer met earthquake spec.

** And see here.

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