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.