Urban sprawl or affordable housing?

Lack of land is getting in the way of affordable housing, according to the government's Productivity Commission, which is recommending relaxing urban limits.

But Green Party co-leader Russel Norman says this will only create urban sprawl and worsen congestion in the quest to create affordable housing.

"Facilitating urban sprawl is not the way to build highly productive cities where people live close to their workplaces, can easily travel around the city on alternatives to congested roads, and can enjoy high quality amenities within walking distance of home.

 "The Productivity Commission's plan will condemn people to spending large amounts of their time sitting in traffic, spending money on fuel."

 Instead, he said, smart urban planning could be achieved through medium density development along mass transport spines.

 The commission's full final report (which you can read here) found taxation was not a key factor in the recent housing boom.

Commission chair Murray Sherwin said: "We carefully considered the claims that housing is tax advantaged, but concluded that any advantage is much smaller than often suggested.

He added: “Pressure on land prices needs to be reduced and the commission has recommended that there be an immediate release of new land for residential development in high demand areas such as Auckland and Christchurch”.

Councils should also take a "less constrained" approach to urban planning, he said.

“There is no need for our homes to be expensive – we can construct quality, affordable homes. But, it will take councils and developers to work together so that sections can come to market quickly at a price that allows the building of homes at an affordable price.”

In addition, the commission recommended reconsideration of current social housing reforms.

“The community housing sector has a unique and very valuable role to fill. It can provide below market rents and more security of tenure than is available from private landlords. It is also well suited to providing the range of ‘wrap around’ services required by many social housing tenants with needs that run well beyond just affordable housing."

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