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A Thousand Days

Just over a thousand days ago, the February 2011 quakes hit Christchurch.

On the agenda for tomorrow's Christchurch City Council meeting are a suite of measures allowing for housing density intensification in response to the anticipated supply pinch to hit over the next couple of years. 
 
From the agenda:
3.8 Prior to the dissolution of the last Council detailed proposals were developed to give effect to the actions set out above. A process of testing and evaluation of options
presented was undertaken as well as more detailed work on rules and mapping of relevant areas. In mid September, a package of proposals was sent to CERA representatives following review by Council and since that time dialogue has been maintained to help refine the proposals.

3.9 Feedback from CERA officials indicated that the proposals developed by the Council did not go far enough in tackling housing supply issues. This was outlined to Councillors in the Ministerial briefing on 30 October. This report outlines the agreed Council position, and highlights areas of compromise. 
City Wide Intensification Provisions 
3.10 In August 2013, CERA staff indicated that they wanted to bring forward a package of intensification measures for immediate inclusion within the District Plan. The basis for these was to make immediate changes which would encourage supply of housing from sources across the city. The Council were asked to comment on these. The measures were as follows:
  • Reconfiguration/conversion of an existing residential unit into two units. 
  • Enabling two residential units on a vacant site. 
  • Enabling use of existing family flats as a second residential unit. 
  • Extending and relaxing provisions relating to elderly persons housing. 
Council in October supported family flats only in L1 zonings; their revised recommendation is to allow it throughout L1, L2, L3, and Hills Zones. Conversion of large homes to two units is supported, but subject to controls over space standards and parking. Appendix 2b suggests that the parking controls could be used to restrict whether you could add more parking spaces or driving accessways onto an existing section rather than to mandate their provision. I hope that this is the case because minimum on-site parking mandates could be used as part of a NIMBY push against their neighbours' intensification. 
 
It looks like Council is recommending that all this be done, with the regs yet to be written. Those wanting to ensure affordable housing come onstream would do well to watch how binding these regulations wind up being. 
 
There are some promising-sounding moves to let developers apply for a "floating zone" consent for more intensive development of larger land sections. And, owners of L1 and L2 sections needing to rebuild will be allowed to put two houses on the section rather than just one - also a great move. 
 
But it has taken over 1000 days for Christchurch City Council to finally come to the view that, in the middle of a giant housing mess after a giant earthquake, they might just want to stop banning people from putting secondary units into their homes. OVER ONE THOUSAND DAYS
 
I expect that the combination of CERA and the Crown-appointed consents manager shouting at Council planners, combined with a new and competent Mayor in Lianne Dalziel, has had a lot to do with the change. But that it took all this to get Council to stop banning people from building secondary suites into their homes, in the middle of a post earthquake housing crisis... well, it doesn't do much for my faith in government.
 
Thank you, CERA. I despair that it's taken this long. But thank you.


UPDATEThursday's Council meeting seems to have been a debacle, with a paperwork snafu pushing things back to the next meeting. Gerry Brownlee was reportedly (and understandably) livid. Councilor Glenn Livingstone was perplexed about Brownlee's frustration. I suppose, after a thousand days, what's another week? 
 
Dr Eric Crampton is a senior lecturer in economics at the University of Canterbury. He blogs at Offsetting Behaviour.