In May Christchurch City Council consulted on changes to the District Plan to enable more housing and business in the city. Most of these changes are required by law, but there are a few small areas where local council has scope to customise things. The consultation summary has now been published here.
I won’t say too much on this, other than just highlight a couple of bits I thought were interesting.
721 people put in submissions. The feedback was mixed depending on which question you look at, but generally there tended to be more opposition than support.
The demographics of submitters was important. The consultation summary report says this about their ages:
This about their genders:
And this about their ethnicity:
They didn’t collect data on whether submitters were homeowners or not. In Lower Hutt’s equivalent consultation they did ask, and they found this:
I suspect the make-up of the Christchurch submitters would be similar.
As a reminder, these changes are primarily about ensuring future generations have affordable housing. Report after report (e.g. this Productivity Commission one, and this Infrastructure Commission one) have said that overly restrictive council zoning through the 80s and 90s is the main reason that NZ has such unaffordable housing today. They conclude that if councils had just allowed people to build housing back then, we wouldn’t have this huge problem today.
There’s a saying that the best time to plant a tree was thirty years ago, the second-best time is now. I think you can apply this to planning reform too. The biggest beneficiaries of the changes being made now will be those entering the housing market in thirty years time.
A separate issue is character and heritage protections. These have been subject to a lot of debate up in Auckland but not so much down here, as Council hasn’t proposed it to such a large extent. Even so, I couldn’t help noticing one of the proposed “Residential Heritage Areas”.
As a student I once flatted in a grotty little flat on Wayside Ave. It was run-down, single-glazed, draughty, and basically like living inside a fridge through winter. At one point it didn’t have a door on the toilet. It also briefly featured a student-chic spa: a big hole in the backyard lined with a tarpaulin and filled with water heated by a cobbled together system of copper pipes passing through a roaring shopping-trolley brazier.
The house looks like this:
I only found out through the consultation that apparently this house has important heritage that needs to be protected. I have to admit I was a little surprised. It certainly has some heritage, just not the sort that I thought warranted protecting.
All up though it’s a really interesting bill which will have profound impacts on our cities for generations to come. We’ll see what happens next with any changes before it gets formalised next month.