The Eye of the Fish

September 18, 2015

New concentration on housing

Wellington is in an interesting place right now. We are not growing as fast as they are in Auckland, but I don’t hear anyone complaining over that. Auckland’s growth figures in housing cost are frightening in both the short term and the long term, with a property bubble seeming ready to pop. It is a volatile situation, on the verge of being totally out of control, and that doesn’t help anyone. By contrast, Wellington’s housing prices are hovering, with even a slight dip from last year, a situation which indicates stability and longevity, rather than bubbling and bursting. Nevertheless, Wellington does still need to grow.

Or rather: Wellington continues to grow, and we need to plan out where those houses are going to go.Assuming that we don’t have an influx of 50,000 Syrian refugees to cope with overnight, a planned and gradual increase in certain areas is the way we are going to go forward. The inner city is the biggest gainer for urban living, with continual intensification of the CBD and Te Aro through the mechanism of converting old office buildings into housing. Sometimes this is done well, sometimes this is done really poorly. The quality of our future city is being set now.

The suburbs are also set for intensification, with Kilbirnie and Johnsonville already having been identified as natural growth spine areas, even if they are a bit unwilling to really embrace the growth. Kilbirnie still seems resolutely one or two stories high, even though the encouragement is there for them to build upwards, out of their tsunami-vulnerable swamp. The potential is huge: it is on the main route between the airport and the city, it is in a level area bathed all day in sun, and has height limits set for growth to 3-4 stories tall, yet it timidly explores the main street with one storey high shacks for the two dollar shop down Bay Road. Kilbirnie: you can do better!

Johnsonville, on the other hand, is very different. Formerly called the Johnsonville Progressive Association, but proving anything but progressive, the current incarnation of the Royal Loyal Johnsonville Association for Bored Retirees is still a large impediment to progress in J’ville. It’s a very different place to Kilbirnie, both topographically and ethnically, but also has many reasons why it could grow: but housing intensification is being fought every step of the way. The ability for J’ville to complain loudly and vocally is unheard of outside of a Waterfront Watch subcommittee.

So, other growth areas are being addressed now, as well. These include Island Bay and Karori. Island Bay is already a place where Council needs to tread carefully, with some of the population having been traumatised by the prospect of losing a small number of on-street car parks in preference to a small painted green line. The place is a tinder-box, having been set alight by Councillor Eagle, and ready to erupt once more over the slackness of the City Council to actually repair the seawall after 2 years of inaction.

Karori, on the other hand, is a place of which I know nothing about, other than the nice former chapel of Futuna somewhere in the depths of suburbia. Karori is, as far as I know populated by wild unkempt tribes of Borneo apes, or possibly entirely by suit-wearing alpacas chewing qat to relieve the boredom and to stave off anaemia from living high in the mountains. All I know is that the bus goes there, and most days, it also comes back.

Seamonkey Madness
18 - 09 - 15

Don’t forget Tawa! (Although sometimes it is easy to.)
I’ll be doing my bit to intensify it in another 3 or so years, but hopefully someone will have done something with the “CBD” before then. It’s just begging for another storey (or two) along the whole lot.

18 - 09 - 15

Tawa. I’ve heard of that, but I thought it was a tree. You mean to say it is a place, as well?

18 - 09 - 15

Karori is where I send curious foreigners (and Aucklanders) in search of unspoiled mid-century ranch style. Levittown in the Mist.

Berhampore is going to be the next outburst of urbanity, surely?

18 - 09 - 15

The only answer for a great city is to intensify rather than spread. There’s plenty of space right in the city… But it would be nice to see some better designs…

19 - 09 - 15

And there is also this report from London, on finding places for new homes in that city as well. The problem is (obviously) not just related to Auckland and Wellington… a snippet for you. Just change the word London to Wellington and the issues are the same….

“A priority for a new Mayor
Solving London’s housing crisis will no doubt be at the top of the new Mayor’s in-tray in May 2016. One of the solutions is making better use of London’s land. Opportunities for densification will vary, reflecting the context of the local area. This report recommends focussing initially on town centres, suburbs and public land, including housing estates in need of renewal. The new Mayor must use all the tools at their disposal including, strategic planning powers (both plan making and decision taking) and housing investment decisions, to support higher densities in appropriate locations to deliver more and better homes for Londoners.”

19 - 09 - 15

….and this:

“Home Truths
In 2014, London First published Home Truths which called for a bold approach to increasing housebuilding in London. The report made 12 recommendations including:
•using new transport infrastructure as a catalyst to unlock more housing development;
•introducing a ‘Domesday Book’ for surplus public land in London to register and coordinate the release of this land for housing;
•giving London’s boroughs a real financial incentive to help them accommodate new homes and, where boroughs consistently fail to meet their housebuilding target, giving the Mayor discretionary power to step in and determine a greater number of applications for residential development; and
•providing more support to boroughs that want to start building again by abolishing restrictions on local authorities’ borrowing against the value of their housing stock, where this would be within prudential rules.
Home Truths makes clear there is no simple solution to London’s lack of housebuilding – increasing supply requires action on multiple fronts. The main focus of this Redefining Density report is exploring how London can make better use of the land within its boundary to build more well-designed and high-quality new homes.”

20 - 09 - 15

Thanks Arthur. In a way, I guess, the government here is also doing those already. Not the Doomsday book of course, but Nick Smith has made plans to find surplus government land (not making such a good start by cocking up with the Council land and the local Iwi, but nevertheless….), as well as the SHA fixation on “Build here on these bits of land, or we’ll do it for you” approach that seems to be working well in Auckland but not working at all in Wellington so far.

20 - 09 - 15

Starkive, “Berhampore is going to be the next outburst of urbanity” – it is amazing how quickly it has changed, from being a relative dump (not a place to dump your relatives, but you know what I mean…) into a des res hood. I blame the Goose Shack. Damn tasty food.