Rotorua Professionals McDowell Real Estate principal and auctioneer Steve Lovegrove. Photo/Andrew Warner
Thousands of Rotorua residents affected by the housing crisis and excluded from the property market could find success as new housing standards allow more construction.
Last week it was announced that Rotorua Lakes Council would join 12 other councils
nationwide to reach major Tier 1 urban centers covered by medium-density residential standards.
Housing Minister Dr Megan Woods and Environment Minister David Parker announced the move after a request from Rotorua Lakes Council and its partners Te Arawa Lakes Trust and Te Tatau o Te Arawa.
Parker said the standards allow up to three houses of up to three stories to be built on most residential sites without resource consent.
Auckland-based property developer Watchman Capital has been involved in various Rotorua projects and has more planned for the future.
Director Marcus Jacobson said he considered the news a good thing, as long as there were “the right checks and balances”.
“There is a need for more housing, and these standards work for more housing.”
Mayor Steve Chadwick said the Rotorua housing and business assessment confirmed there was a “serious” housing deficit in the district.
This was a short-term housing shortage of 1890, including an unmet demand of 1500; 1400 in the medium term, including unmet demand; and 3630 long term.
Waiariki MP and co-leader of Te Paati Māori Rawiri Waititi said the “late” news meant the district had fewer barriers in place for houses to be built to remove the whānau from the streets.
“Most importantly, we need to build communities, not just homes. Engaging with iwi and making sure we have the right social supports around them is equally important.”
He said the announcement was good for Rotorua, where 40% of the population were Maori.
Rotorua-based Labor MP Tāmati Coffey said Labor and National saw the value of the changes as a solution to enable more housing and were working together proactively.
“As one of the select committee members who helped push this forward, I was always aware of how this would desperately benefit the people of Rotorua in our need for better housing options.”
These changes will achieve mixed housing and will also allow for the intergenerational living that the Maori community has been calling for for a very long time, he said.
National Party MP for Rotorua Todd McClay previously said if it meant more homes it was a good thing, but said potentially affected existing owners should have a say.
Rotorua Professionals McDowell Real Estate director and auctioneer Steve Lovegrove said he was excited about the news.
He did not believe “there are any losers in this situation”, although he understood that some people would have fears if their historically low-density residential areas changed.
Lovegrove said the medium density was an opportunity.
“Nobody wants to see more earth chewed up.”
More construction would provide more opportunity, which in turn meant there would be more affordable housing, he said.
“I believe there is a strong appetite for developers. We need more housing, there is a strong business opportunity there.”
Things could happen faster, he said, and improve the “critical” housing problem.
Classic Group director Peter Cooney said residents should expect more infill housing around them. The flip side was that they could look at their section and think about how they could find more value there.
He said that in theory this should enable the development of more affordable housing.
“There will always be those who don’t want development to happen near them, however, I think that group of people is diminishing.”
Most people now know someone who is struggling to find quality housing and recognizes that we need to get out of the crisis, he said.
In her announcement, Rotorua Councilor Tania Tapsell said the housing scaling up would open up affordable options for people.
This move would eliminate costly barriers and the time required for construction, while streamlining the consent process.
“An overhaul of the old rules and process was long overdue and it’s a big step in the right direction for the future of our growing city.
“It is the renewed hope that the many people excluded from the housing market have been waiting for.”
Rotorua Council of Lakes Deputy Chief District Development Officer Jean-Paul Gaston said he was working on a housing plan change which would incorporate the new standards but also consider new height and density rules for other parts of the district.
This change of plan was to be notified in August in line with the guidance of the government’s national policy statement on urban development.
“Along with this work, the council is planning a future development strategy that takes a long-term view of how and where development is happening in Rotorua, and what is needed to support that development, such as infrastructure and community assets.”
The standards will allow owners of Residential Zones 1 and 2 to add more homes to their current sections.
“The changes will significantly improve opportunities for infill housing and development throughout the city. This will provide more housing choices and more affordable housing options.”
The change will not increase costs to taxpayers, he said.
“The new standards will mean that many housing developments will not require a resource consent. This will help reduce the time it takes to get a house built and the cost of consent.”
Some of the new rules that implement medium-density residential standards will be in place from August, while others from the end of next year.