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Proposal to tackle housing supply and affordability approved

A Hutt City Council initiative to improve housing supply and housing affordability was given the green light at an extraordinary Council meeting last night.

District Plan Change 43 will permit medium density residential housing of up to three storeys in eight suburban areas that have good access to transport, shopping, schools and parks. It will also reduce barriers to traditional infill housing and minor dwellings.

Lower Hutt Mayor Campbell Barry said Council’s decision was pivotal for a city facing sustained population growth and an insufficient housing supply.

“As a Council, we’ve had to balance existing residents’ concerns over changes to their neighbourhoods and the harsh reality of a sharp rise in housing hardship and homelessness in this city. It’s also about taking action for the next generation of people who question whether they’ll ever be able to own their own home.”

“We won’t see medium density communities sprout up overnight – this is about the planned and gradual evolution of our city over a long period of time.”

Mayor Barry said the plan change is not a “silver bullet” for improving housing affordability but is the first of several projects on the horizon that will further address housing and shape Lower Hutt for the decades ahead.

“Spatial planning, our district plan review and a fresh strategic look at housing is about to get underway, and the crucial ingredient to this will be our communities’ views and vision for the future of their city.”

Lower Hutt has experienced average house price increases of 63 per cent and rent rises of 31 percent since 2015. The city is currently the biggest recipient of emergency housing grants for homeless households in the greater Wellington region.

The plan change spanned four months of public consultation, rather than the required one month, and involved 14 four-hour public information sessions. It attracted 1200 pages of submissions from 263 submitters.

Mayor Barry said last night’s decision was an immense and complex matter for a new council to face and he was proud of the thoughtful way both new and experienced councillors considered the issues.

What is Plan Change 43?
• It involves two new activity areas or zones – Suburban Mixed Use (SMU) would introduce a building height of 12 metres (three to four storeys), accommodating shops and cafes on the ground floor, with apartments or offices above. Most areas to be replaced by SMU are currently Suburban Commercial zone, which has a height standard of eight metres (two storeys)
• A Medium Density Residential zone would be located next to Suburban Mixed Use. It will allow buildings of up to 10 metres (plus one metre for the roofline), while restricting building height closer to the rear and side boundaries to reduce shading effects using recession planes and boundary setbacks. Currently, the height standard for most sites is eight metres or two storeys
• These two new zones would be located in eight areas chosen for their proximity to shops, schools, public transport and access to parks. These areas are in Stokes Valley, Taita, Naenae, Avalon/Park Ave, Epuni, Waterloo, Waiwhetu/Woburn and Wainuiomata.
• Outside of these eight areas in the General Residential zone, the proposed plan change would provide for medium density housing on sites larger than 1400 square metres. There would be the potential for terraced and clustered houses, shared parking and outdoor living areas with buildings up to eight metres or two storeys
• The proposed plan change would also remove some of the barriers to developing traditional infill and minor dwellings.

Medium Density Design Guide
More intensive developments requiring a resource consent would need to be assessed against a design guide which promotes quality building designs and deals with issues like shade and privacy effects and onsite storm water management.

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