By Developer Peter Cooney, Classic Developments
There is no shortage of financiers wanting to invest in New Zealand housing developments. There is no shortage of skill within development companies.
Building companies can build the houses, but no one can get on with the job because council consent processes, with ever more layers of compliance and cost, prevent developers from getting started.
Until we have a minister who is prepared to cut away the burgeoning layers of bureaucratic nonsense, then we are going to have a housing shortage which pushes house prices up and creates crises in our communities.
Councils are not freeing land for development quickly enough, and new developments are being deluged with requests for information by council planners that don’t want to take the risk of making decisions.
If we consider Tauranga for example, land runs out next year. There is no more land zoned for development so new house building stops.
That means electricians, plumbers, bricklayers and other tradies will all have to stop. It will impact carpet sales, furniture sales, lighting, drapes, paint, paving and anything else that is part of putting together a new home.
The multiplier effects of development and construction are woven into our local economies and employment.
It is enough now. It must end. We can’t advance as a nation and provide one of the basics of life — housing — if there is so much delay in getting good housing produced.
If everything goes well, it will take four to five years to get a proposed development through council processes. And it can take much longer than that.
It’s a fallacy in the government’s thinking that finance is the problem behind the housing crisis. The Government is working on a problem that isn’t there and ignoring the one that every builder and developer is pulling their hair out trying to deal with.
“We can raise as much capital as we need, and we don’t require Government help with that.
There are many financiers that would like to be part of the New Zealand housing market, but they struggle to justify investing when they can’t be sure how long a development they might back is going to take to get through all the council processes.
The root of the problem with speed-to-market is the ever-increasing mountains of red tape and slow council decision-making or non-decision-making. And that’s where the government’s focus must be.
My solution is to ensure the new Ministry of Housing and Urban Development is staffed with people who have actually developed housing and actually built houses.
We have too many people in key decision-making positions in those key ministries without any idea of how to develop housing.
They might have had long careers in government and understand the “machinery of government”, but know nothing about what makes housing tick. We need to change that.
I suggest the creation of housing “Czars” in each region, with the power to clear away bureaucratic barriers, and who have a direct line to the minister.
It would be their job to cut away useless time-wasting council processes, and put a spotlight on any situation where barriers were being created for spurious reasons.
Instead of consent officers seeing their job as hindering and slowing developers, we need a more collaborative style of governance where central government, local government, and private housing providers work together on agreed goals that work for all parties.
It can be done — it just takes leadership from the top and a required change in the way consent officers are tasked.