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Rise of the Townhouse

Rise of the Townhouse

Rise of the Townhouse

Tuesday 21 December, 2021

Some of New Zealand’s suburbs in its largest cities are likely to look very different in future, with new housing laws passed on 14 December that encourage the building of townhouses and apartments in residential areas by making certain development a permitted activity. The Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Bill introduces new intensification rules which apply to all residential zoned land in Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington, and Christchurch. If taken up, the new rules could lead to an additional 105,000 new dwellings in those cities over the next 8 years.

Councils in these areas will now have to adopt medium-density residential standards which allow the building of at least 3 houses per section, each up to 3 storeys high, without resource consent (building consent will still be required). This means that the affected Councils must notify an intensification plan change to implement the new standards, alongside the directions in the NPS-UD (see below).  Councils can choose to allow more houses or more storeys but cannot narrow or limit the new rules unless this can be justified in areas where there are qualifying matters in play (for example, natural hazards, heritage). Developers can also apply for resource consent to create higher density housing than is provided for in the standards, including greater site coverage. The rules also apply to existing dwellings, allowing increases in the height or density of existing dwellings without resource consent, although building consent will still be required.

Under the new rules, housing cannot cover more than 50% of the section and must be set back at least 1.5 metres from the front of the section and 1 metre from the side and rear of the section. Each unit will have to have accessible outdoor space, although this can be a balcony.

The Bill will also speed up the implementation of the National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD) by introducing the new intensification streamlined planning process (ISPP) which councils are required to use when making or changing their district plans to introduce new intensification policies. The NPS-UD requires councils to change their district plans to allow buildings up to six storeys and abolishes car parking requirements for buildings in urban areas.

The Bill will come into force once it receives Royal Assent, which is likely to be before the end of the year and councils will start to implement the new rules from next year. The Bill was introduced and passed by agreement between Labour and National, so the new intensification rules are unlikely to be repealed or materially changed in the future.

Councils that have already notified plan changes or are preparing plan changes which include rules and provisions that are impacted by the new changes to the Act will need to assess the full implications of the changes.  Some may require amendments and others may need to be withdrawn in part, depending on the timing of notification.  In addition, infrastructure planning may need to be revisited to take into account the potential for the level of development enabled by the new Act.

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