Auckland does NOT have a land supply shortage!

In today’s state of the nation speech, John Key talked about housing affordability. Specifically, he singled out a favourite whipping boy of the right – local councils – for allegedly failing to open up enough greenfield land for development. Specifically, he was implying that Auckland Council needs to open up more greenfield land and get over its compact city fetish.

I don’t want to get bogged down in the housing affordability debate today. It’s complicated. It certainly isn’t the simple matter of opening up more land that the Prime Minister seems to think it is – there are no silver bullets. I also don’t want to get into the sprawl vs compact city debate – it’s been done to death.

However, the myth that Auckland is somehow short of greenfield land is one that deserves to be debunked, because it simply isn’t true.  Some numbers to kick off:

  • ·         Auckland currently has a housing stock numbering somewhere around 500,000 homes – 385,000 of those are detached houses.
  • ·         The Auckland Plan says that 13,000 homes must be built every year for the next 30 years to keep up with projected population growth.
  • ·         In recent years, Auckland has only been able to add 3,000 homes each year. That is down from a high of just over 12,000 in the mid-2000s.
  • ·         Auckland already has operative greenfield areas comprising some 18,000 sections. These are fully plugged into infrastructure, ready to go – ripe for immediate development.

That last number is critical for today’s debate. 18,000 sections are sitting vacant right now, fully serviced by infrastructure, but developers for whatever reason aren’t interested. Is it the economy? No confidence in the market? No demand for peripheral development? Who knows. All that can be said for sure is that there is no shortage of land right now for our immediate housing needs.

But what about the future you ask? Well the Auckland Plan identifies three areas as ‘greenfield areas for investigation’ – one up around the Hibiscus Coast, one up around Kumeu/Hobsonville, and one to the south between Papakura and Pukekohe. Together, these three areas will account for up to 40 percent of Auckland’s growth in the next 30 years.

The 40 percent figure really does not do justice to the scale of development proposed. Auckland Council is currently consulting/investigating the greenfield development possibilities for the southern investigation area between Papakura and Pukekohe. The area being investigated totals some 8,000 hectares – that’s 80 square kilometres. That area will contain 55,000 homes and 35,000 jobs in 30 years – translates to a population in the ballpark of 100-150,000 outside the current urban area by 2040. Put another way, that’s a city the size of Tauranga plonked to the south of Auckland.

And that doesn’t even include the other two greenfield investigation areas – in total, the new greenfields will amount to some 160,000 homes.

So in summary, no, Auckland does not have a land shortage. Not now, not in thirty years time.

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About Liam W

Urbanist, transport nerd, general curmudgeon.

Posted on January 25, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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