Housing is on the horizon as the Government’s new housing supply law is passed

After being introduced into Parliament eight weeks ago, the Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Bill (Bill) passed its Third Reading this week and is now awaiting Royal Assent.

In our previous article we explained the intention of the proposed Bill to expedite the intensification already anticipated in the National Policy Statement on Urban Development 2020 (NPS-UD) and to allow medium density residential development in major urban centres without resource consent (through medium density residential standards (MDRS) that allow three dwellings of up to three storeys on a site).

That intention has not changed despite the Bill undergoing detailed amendments since it was first introduced, particularly in response to industry concerns that were raised to the Select Committee including visual amenity effects, the quality of new builds, and the lack of supporting infrastructure.

Deputy Leader of the National Party, Nicola Willis, commented during the Bill’s third reading that “as a result [of submissions to the Select Committee], we have made extensive amendments to this bill, through 50 pages worth of amendments in fact, which I think make this bill much better and therefore much more enduring than it would have been in its original form.”

We have set out below the five key changes to the Bill.

There will be standardised objectives and policies applying to relevant residential zones across the country

Councils that implement the MDRS into relevant residential zones must include objectives and policies prescribed in the Bill.  These objectives and policies relate to creating a well-functioning urban environment, a term used in the NPS-UD, and providing for a range of different housing typologies to meet housing need and demand.  Additional objectives and policies can be included to provide matters of discretion to support the MDRS and incorporate the density standards into the relevant district plan.

There are more Building Standards, now called Density Standards

There is no longer an impervious area standard and there are two new standards; one relating to window glazing that requires any residential unit facing the street to have a minimum 20% of the façade glazed and one requiring ground floor units to have a landscaped area of at least 20% of the developed site (which can be communal).

Existing plan changes do not necessarily need to be withdrawn:

The transitional provisions that applied to partly completed proposed plans and private plan changes have been redrafted.  Developers and councils have been vocal about the economic implications of the Bill requiring partly completed plan changes to be withdrawn.  In response to these concerns the Bill now allows:

  • relevant territorial authorities to notify a variation to a proposed district plan to incorporate the MDRS and give effect to the relevant intensification policies which will proceed through the intensification streamlined planning process (ISPP);
  • plan changes that propose or request changes to a relevant residential zone or new residential zone can continue if the plan change has been notified but a decision has not yet been made. The territorial authority must notify a variation to the plan change which will proceed using the ISPP, separately from the instrument incorporating the MDRS;
  • private plan changes that seek to change the underlying zone of a site without changing any of the provisions of the new zone that will apply can continue to be processed. The MDRS will apply, but it will be introduced by the territorial authority through the ISPP; and
  • if a decision on a plan change has been publicly notified before commencement the provisions in the Bill do not apply.

More councils could be introducing the MDRS

The Bill now clarifies that the MDRS can be incorporated into District Plans by either creating new residential zones or amending existing residential zone provisions.  The original Bill targeted major urban centres such as Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and larger urban centres such as New Plymouth and Napier.  New provisions have been incorporated to allow all other councils to request that the Minister for the Environment make regulations requiring them to implement the MDRS if there is an acute housing need in their district (although urban areas with less than 5,000 people are still excluded).

The Bill seeks to increase efficiencies by relying on existing planning provisions where possible:

  • The Bill now clarifies that where the existing provisions in a District Plan already allow the same or a greater level of development as the MDRS, these provisions do not need to be amended or re-drafted.
  • Territorial authorities will retain discretion to exclude areas that are not fit for more intensified housing development by applying qualifying matters. The Bill has amended the qualifying matters provisions to ensure that councils do not have to undertake an onerous exercise to establish that a qualifying matter applies to a site where that qualifying matter is already recognised in the previously operative district plan.

Now that the Bill has passed, councils will begin taking steps to implement these new provisions by 20 August 2022.  The Bill will result in substantial changes to New Zealand’s planning regime to increase development potential in urban areas.

If you have any queries about how the Bill will affect you or your future development plans, please reach out to our experts.

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