Last Thursday, in the space of about thirty minutes, the Hastings Council adopted two major policy reports that will significantly guide the future of housing in the Hastings District.

The two reports at issue were:

  • The Heretaunga Plains Urban Development Strategy (HPUDS), which predicts the need for approximately 8000 more housing units in the Hastings/Napier region by 2045. The report itself is 203 pages; the accompanying report on submissions to the HPUDS process is another 104 pages. (Download here – 8MB!)
  • The Hastings Urban Issues and Urban Design Framework, which lays out scenarios for what Hastings’ various urban communities (Hastings CBD, Havelock North, Flaxmere) should look like in the future. This report is another 130 pages. (Download here from Aug 5 Council agenda — 16MB!)

In adopting these reports (and consequently the growth guidance within them), some Councillors complained of the very substantial body of material they were expected to intelligently review in a very short time frame. But the wheels of staff-driven Council planning rolled forward nonetheless. The discussion was cursory at best (I admit to napping through bits of it). You see, Council’s decision to “receive the reports” doesn’t necessarily imply rigorous scrutiny!

The reports are pretty flash … plenty of charts, maps, aerial photography, artist renderings of state-of-the-art urban design concepts.

But, apart from whether any Councillors read them and appreciate their implications, do they depict the real world in the first place?

The day after HDC embraced its reports, another report was delivered, in Wellington.

It was the report of a high-level panel, the Housing Shareholders’ Advisory Group, to the Ministers of Finance and Housing, on how to meet the social housing needs of New Zealand.

This report, Home and Housed: A Vision for Social Housing in New Zealand, painted a gloomy picture of the real housing world … presumably a world Hawke’s Bay inhabits. (Download here)

For example …

  • The number of people in temporary accommodation that is unsuited for long-term habitation … may range from 8,000 up to 20,000. This group includes a number of people, mainly Maori, living in sub-standard housing in rural areas.
  • 67,700 state households.
  • 280,000 renters of private dwellings receiving the Accommodation Supplement (that means 60% of all private renters are receiving the AS).
  • 42,822 owners of private dwellings are receiving the AS.
  • In NZ, social housing accounts for 1 in 5 dwellings.
  • NZ currently has a housing shortage of approximately 70,000 dwellings.

Some planner at HDC or the Regional Council (which is currently dealing with its own leaseholders’ revolt) might try extrapolating the Hastings or Hawke’s Bay implications of these national statistics to get a better picture of the real world of housing in HB.

For example, using Stats NZ figures, I estimate there are between 40,000 and 50,000 renters in Hawke’s Bay. And if the national average of 60% of them are receiving the AS, that’s a minimum of 24,000 requiring financial support to meet their housing needs.

So what solutions to affordability of housing in Hawke’s Bay does HPUDS give us?

“Housing affordability will remain a key challenge for implementation of HPUDS. Many household incomes are low and development costs are significant. Unless land and house packages can be delivered in an affordable manner, settlement patterns will not be met.”

In other words, HPUDS punts the issue off to Central Government and Housing NZ Corporation.

What a shame Home and Housed didn’t come out while HPUDS was still doing its homework, and discovering the predicted future profile of the Bay was struggling young Maori families and fixed-income elderly.

The kind of housing challenges posed in Home and Housed aren’t likely to be met by HPUDS’ in-fill of Havelock North or the cool stuff depicted in the Hastings Urban Design Framework.

But be comforted, ratepayers, that the consultants have been duly paid, the reports have now been “received” by our attentive Councillors, and no doubt they already proudly sit on our public library shelves, waiting to be refreshed in ten years.

Tom Belford

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  1. Napier's major housing issue has to be affordability.

    We saw a number of apartment blocks erected in a fit of big city fad following. As irony and councils slow on the up-take would have it, at the same time Auckland and Wellington were glutted with such buildings, unable to sell them all and sick of the whole idea.

    As was the trend nationwide, many of Napier’s apartments were sold off plans for large sums of money ($3-400,000 a common figure) for such small residences. Years later many of them are still unsold. Others that were bought as investment properties are currently on the market for up to (and over) half their initial sale price.

    The days of the affordable old quarter acre are well gone too with few new properties in any new housing development giving you much change from a cool half-million dollars.

    But mention the concept of affordable or cheaper subdivisions and you are vilified for promoting some form of future slum, as some council estates in England have become.

    We are not talking about shanty-towns, merely property that young families can afford, grow into, take pride in and love.

    The only difference will be that these residents will be doing their own lawns and gardens, rather than paying someone to do it for them like their richer neighbouring suburbs.

    Meanwhile those of us who rent and have not yet placed a foot on the property ladder are having the rungs spaced further and further apart as over-valued real estate continues it’s skyward climb.

    My generation is being told (by those who already own property – often multiple holdings) that we are unlikely to be able to afford our own piece of Godzone in our lifetimes. The “Haves” like rubbing the fact into the “Have-nots” it would appear.

    If there is any chance of the property market regaining some sanity and more realistic values, it will be as the current baby-boomer generation, who have been the main force in real estate investment cash up their holdings as they move into retirement and begin to sell off their investments.

  2. Here is a very interesting research paper by Kelvin Sanderson from BERL (Business and Economic Research Limited) on Housing Affordability and Urban Density which I came across on another blog.

    Thoughts raised include:

    1) The land price per resident is generally lower because the density increase is greater than the land price increase.

    2) Household income opportunities are greater because, firstly with agglomeration, industry includes a broad range of business services producing higher incomes for employees, rather than low density, lower income ‘bulky’ industries like manufacturing and warehousing. (The average GDP/FTE in the industry profile of inner Wellington is over 10% higher than for the City as a whole. It is likely that incomes reflect the GDP/FTE.) Secondly the range of employment opportunities is wider, and consequently labour force participation is very high, allowing higher household incomes. Of the total population in the inner Wellington city, 68% are in the labour force, whereas for the country as a whole, there are 47% employed.)

    3) Some other basic living costs are lower because e.g. the costs of providing networked infrastructure declines per person; and the opportunity for using active transport modes (walk, jog, cycle) in a range of journey purposes increases. (In most urban areas about 6% of the travel-to-work journeys are by active modes whereas in inner Wellington and Auckland the figures in 2001 were 50%-62%.) For other journeys, public transport is more likely to be a viable option in the more-dense areas.

  3. Recent case law in Queenstown will affect the way District Councils can consent new subdivisions. In future, it is probable that developers will be required to provide affordable housing within a new development under a rule in the district plan. Relevant case is Infinity Investment Group Ltd v Queenstown Lakes District Council. Check it out.

  4. Sure, the rungs on the property market ladder are very much damned greasy at present. However, whenever it comes to land, and to quote Mark Twain, "they ain't making anymore!

    That, coupled with escalating tradespersons wages, GST and spiralling material costs,etc. I personally can't see the prices of houses falling ( except for indiviuals personal circumstances' much further than they are right now.

    David Bosley

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