The government has just announced the creation of the most massive and powerful housing and land development agency that we have ever seen.
The Housing and Urban Development Authority will have cut-through powers to build quality state and affordable homes and create thriving master-planned communities.
The new authority will be responsible for leading the Government’s large-scale urban development projects and for being a world class state housing landlord. It will bring together three existing agencies that build homes – Housing New Zealand, its subsidiary HLC, and the KiwiBuild Unit.
Now, I had worried back in 2017 that the state’s actual capacity to roll out its housing programmes needed real musculature, and that it was lacking the strength to really achieve it.
It doesn’t get stronger than this one.
The Minister noted this morning:
The authority will transform the way New Zealanders live, work and play by building communities with a mix of public, affordable, and market housing, as well as the jobs, transport links, open spaces and facilities people need – it will do this at scale and pace so we can build our way out of the national housing crisis.
The authority will lead a range of large and small urban development projects throughout the country in partnership with local government, iwi and the private sector. For some large-scale complex development projects, it will have access to a range of statutory powers including:
• shortened planning and consenting processes;
• building and changing infrastructure;
• funding infrastructure and development;
• bringing together parcels of land; and
• reconfiguring reserves.
Over the coming months, we will continue to communicate the progress we’re making on our KiwiBuild and state home build programmes and further detail on how the urban development authority will operate.
It will take years of course before such an agency has the same confidence and rollout capacity as NZTA, the transport agency. The transport agency itself is growing in power and is likely to take on more and more of the arterial roads, and public transport, not just motorways. But that is what New Zealand society needs: transport should serve housing and communities, and it needs an agency with the strength to match that of transport.
This new spatial agency will be big enough to transform whole suburbs. There will not be too many local government agencies that will have the capacity to engage well with it – even Panuku does not appear to have much traction within Wellington, for example. But the Cannons Creek and Mt Roskill examples are signals of the ambition of this government to truly impact whole localities and to rebuild communities.
I would expect Housing New Zealand tenants may feel nervous. The Minister comments that:
There will be no change for Housing NZ tenants. Being a world-class public landlord will be a key priority for the new agency. It will have a strong social focus on the wellbeing of both its current and future tenants.
We believe public and affordable housing should be at the heart of our developments. This move puts public housing at the heart of our ambitious plan to build master-planned communities,” Phil Twyford said.
New legislation to establish the Housing and Urban Development Authority will be introduced to Parliament in 2019, with the first projects expected to be up and running in early 2020.
We should expect a fair bit of thrashing of the proposed legislation as it goes through its stages in the House. In particular: when you accrete a lot of power who regulates it on behalf of the defence of the citizen? Comparisons to Mortal Engine will I am sure be made:
(Same of course applies to transport. It is now clear to the Minister that NZTA itself doesn’t regulate well and on Friday afternoon has launched an investigation by MOT to regulate NZTA. Results out in late March.)
I can imagine that this is the kind of entity that would partner with NZTA to build much of Mangere through the light rail project. That’s got shades of the process by which rail was funded through the Hutt Valley a century or so ago: an entity that buys the land, subdivides and sells it, and uses the proceeds to build the rail one. Who knows what the actual instruments will be or how they will combine, but it’s clearly more powerful than any agency we’ve seen – stronger in its powers than even the development entities in Victoria.
Where this appears to be going is a strong aggregation of powers and assets across New Zealand to achieve housing targets that are bold and involve risk. The real estate agencies on record funding the National Party will choke on their zinfandel, but the Minister is generating powers to tilt housing real estate itself, and seems heading toward aggregating all of the state’s land assets in time into one umbrella.
So long as the citizen is defended, to me it feels an appropriate response to the scale of market failure and the distorted weighting towards massive motorway projects at the expense of communities, that has damaged our society for too long.