A Policy A Day: Urban Development Authorities

**Cross posting from our guest post on MCDP A Policy A Day 2017** 

In the lead-up to the election, we are examining a policy a day. We’re exploring a variety of policy areas, explaining the background and analysing some of the policy options, with a mixture of technocracy and values-based approaches. Inevitably, some opinion will make its way in and we make no apology for that – after all, we’re voters too. A list of all the articles is available hereEnjoy!

Today’s post is by Jade Kake

Urban development authorities are currently being considered by both the government and the opposition, largely in response to the inability of housing development and infrastructure to keep pace with population growth in Auckland. Given the coordinated approach and extensive powers proposed, there is huge potential for urban development authorities to address housing supply and affordability, nationwide and particularly in Auckland.

Urban development authorities have been successfully used in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia, and there is mounting evidence that these have resulted in better urban design outcomes, improved infrastructure, and economic productivity. The social impact of urban regeneration is more complex, with positive economic outcomes linked to both increased incomes – and house prices.

When left to market forces, the benefits of urban regeneration accrue to our wealthiest and most privileged members of society, and acutely increase the disadvantage experienced by everyone else. What requires further discussion is how indigenous communities are involved in decision-making, and how marginalised communities are empowered (or disempowered) to resist gentrification and positively engage in the development process.

Urban Development Authorities proposal

The government’s proposal, which is currently in the early stages of consultation, would allow nationally or locally significant urban development projects to be built more quickly. Powers currently held by the Crown would be vested in a publicly-owned entity that could be used to streamline and speed up large scale projects, such as suburb-wide regeneration.

The Affordable Housing Authority proposed by Labour is essentially an urban development authority, but without the benefit of more detail, a comparison isn’t possible. Instead, we will assume that the roles and potential powers proposed on both sides are essentially the same, with room for negotiation in developing the details.

The discussion document puts forward a list of potential powers, including:

  • Land – powers to assemble parcels of land, including existing compulsory acquisition powers under the Public Works Act 1981
  • Planning and resource consenting – powers to override existing and proposed district plans and regional plans, and streamlined consenting processes
  • Infrastructure – powers to plan and build new and reroute existing infrastructure such as roads, water pipes and reserves
  • Funding – powers to buy, sell and lease land and buildings; powers to borrow to fund infrastructure; and powers to levy charges to cover infrastructure costs

The scale of urban development authorities (such as nationwide, by island, by Regional Council area, by major urban area, etc.) remains to be determined and will have implications regarding consenting and other powers currently held by other geographically defined entities.

Many questions are raised by this extensive list of potential powers, such as, how will the proposed urban development authorities give effect or consideration to the Auckland Unitary Plan? How will the current requirements to consult with iwi under the Resource Management Act be maintained? What are the potential non-market based approaches to urban renewal? How can alternative models of development articulate a leading role for iwi, and how can central and local government incentivise and support such approaches?

Potential roles for Tāmaki Makaurau Iwi

With many Tāmaki Makaurau iwi at the critical point of achieving or negotiating settlement, there are emerging opportunities for iwi to develop their land (returned or purchased through settlement) for housing. The role for iwi as articulated in the government’s proposal is equivalent to that of any other private developer, however, given the document is still a draft, this could be expanded.

Ideally, a variety of roles for iwi would be articulated through the legislation, including governance roles within the Urban Development Authority, as lead development entity, or participating in development consortia. This would enable iwi to participate at whatever level aligns with their interest and capacity – some may wish to be kaitiaki of the vision for their wider area, setting the strategic direction and spatial plan; others will wish to have more influence over environmental outcomes, or the social and tenure mix of housing; others still will wish to take advantage of the commercial development opportunities presented.

The issues associated with the proposed Barrowcliffe Development in Manukau highlight some of the tensions and competing interests in Auckland, with mana whenua sidelined in favour of other interests. Under Ngāti Tamaoho’s leadership, the transit-oriented development would deliver 300 new homes and prioritise social and affordable housing. Divergent policy objectives have been blamed for the stall in the project, with competing mandates between Auckland Council and its development arm Panuku to deliver affordable housing and maximise financial returns.

Another case in point is the Paoa Whanake Point England development planned on land returned under Treaty settlement. Ngāti Paoa have indicated that of the 300 new homes that will be built, 20 per cent of the houses will be social housing, 20 per cent will be sold as affordable, and 60 per cent will be sold on the open market, and that the development will be made available to both tribal and non-tribal members. Community opposition to the project was highlighted in the media, however, the hearings for the Point England Development Enabling Bill revealed a community in support of Ngāti Paoa – but in opposition to the lack of meaningful engagement by the government.

Iwi-led developments such as Barrowcliffe and Paoa Whanake have the potential to benefit both mana whenua and mataawaka (particularly those on low incomes) due to the clear commitment made by iwi to facilitate positive social outcomes for all who reside in their rohe. This can be achieved by determining the tenure mix, and targeting Māori and Pasifika families and individuals through tenant selection criteria, progressive ownership schemes, and social procurement. Additionally, application of principles such as Te Aranga contribute to a positive sense of place relationships for mana whenua, maatawaka, and tauiwi.

A further consideration may be that, given the issues of affordability and low rates of Māori home ownership, what models can be developed to enable iwi-developers or iwi-led consortia to provide a percentage of retained affordable or affordable rental homes (targeted to Māori and other low-income families)? What are the policy implications, and what government financial incentives might be required for this to work?

Resisting Gentrification

The recent experiences in Glen Innes, which has a high proportion of Māori and Pasifika families on low incomes, has highlighted the issues associated with displacement of existing communities in the regeneration process. In response to this issue, the Māori Party’s housing policy specifically requires all community housing providers and all Crown providers of state housing (such as Housing New Zealand) to provide for tenant involvement in governance, through tenant advisory boards and funds tagged for tenant led initiatives. Early tenant involvement in decision-making and social procurement are two further mechanisms to support positive outcomes and prevent displacement of low-income communities through the regeneration process.

As areas selected for regeneration often include a large proportion of state housing, there are opportunities to support state housing tenants to transition to home ownership through rent-to-buy programmes for existing Housing New Zealand tenants. The current policy enables Housing New Zealand to sell houses to tenants under a rent-to-buy agreement, however, this is not widely promoted and many tenants are unaware that this option is available to them. Additionally, there is no provision to credit a portion of rent already paid (often over several decades) towards purchasing the home, a policy change that Māori Women’s Welfare League has long been advocating for.

The tension inherent in this proposition is that tenants do not necessarily whakapapa to the rohe in which they live. There is a need to ensure that the rights of iwi and Right of First refusal provisions under treaty settlement are maintained, that iwi involved in regeneration projects in their rohe (such as Tāmaki) and not placed into a position of conflict with the local community, and that the rights of individual Māori state housing tenants (who may not whakapapa to that rohe) to security of tenure are upheld and their aspirations for home ownership supported.

Impact Outside Auckland

Although principally targeted to Auckland, the urban development authorities proposal when progressed will be national legislation. Several pieces of bespoke legislation precede the urban development authorities proposal, including the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Act 2013, and the Housing Legislation Amendment Act 2016. It is unclear to what degree the government has applied the critical learnings from Special Housing Area projects – such as Tāmaki Regeneration, Hobsonville and Waimahia Inlet – in drafting the urban development authorities proposal.

The Housing Legislation Amendment Act enables land obtained under the Public Works Act that is no longer required for the original purpose to be sold to private developers for housing, without the need for it to be offered back to the original owners. This does not undercut any existing Right of First Refusal provisions, but of course, many iwi either don’t have Right of First Refusal provisions or are pre-settlement. A potential unintended consequence may in future see surplus land (such as Whangarei’s prime railway land) sold to private developers without first being offered to tangata whenua. Whether intended by the legislation or not, this should be cause for alarm for pre-settlement iwi.

One way to address this may be to develop government policy that requires any land taken under public works to be released for housing development under the Housing Legislation Amendment Act to be offered to iwi-developers or iwi-led consortia in the first instance. The proposition by Labour (through their Affordable Housing Authority) to partner with hapū, iwi, and Māori organisations to develop affordable and social housing through the procurement process (and by creating joint development organisations) is an interesting one that may go some way towards addressing this issue.

Both major political parties have indicated their support for urban development authorities. The devil is in the details, so to speak, and the best way to ensure Māori outcomes are protected is to ensure minor parties with a strong commitment to Māori and Treaty issues – particularly the Māori Party and to a lesser degree the Greens – are adequately representation under MMP.

Jade Kake is an architectural designer, housing advocate and researcher. She works for national Māori housing advocate Te Matapihi, and in this role, she has written about a wide range of housing related matters online and in print, and has spoken on various panels. In her spare time, she works for her whānau, marae, and hapū in a technical capacity, supporting Māori land utilisation, papakāinga and marae development projects.