Three special housing areas mooted for Hamilton

A sped-up planning process could lead to new developments in Rotokauri, Horotiu and
Te Rapa.

Three fast-track housing areas are on the cards for Hamilton.

One of them is ready to go, but Hamilton City Council is still finalising the policy to make it happen.
At least three potential sites - in Rotokauri, Horotiu and Te Rapa - are being proposed by developers who see an opportunity to get lots of housing in fast.

They were revealed in the Hamilton City Council chambers on Thursday in submissions on a draft special housing areas policy.

Affordable housing was a recurring theme in submissions, as were stronger communities and alternative ways of creating them.

Special housing areas (SHA) aim to shave time off the process to get houses on sections, and grant some extra permissions.

The areas are chosen by council but need Government approval.

Hamilton's northern gateway could be one, Perry Group chief executive Richard Coventry said, because they're ready to go with the group's 1000- to 2000-dwelling Te Awa Lakes development in Horotiu.

It's not about making "one part of the development slightly cheaper than the rest", Habitat for Humanity Central North Island general manager Nic Greene said. The new houses need to be affordable in real terms.

"We would like to get started in October, to be honest, to meet the earthworks season. If we don't meet that, then we're waiting another year," he said.

The group has infrastructure in place for what it calls a transformational development with "some unique tourism-enabling activity".
The Perry Group has previously proposed a water-based adventure park in the Horotiu area.

Landowners Lynn and Dean Hutchinson can imagine a special housing area on their 4 hectares in Hutchinson Road in Te Rapa.

"It's mostly flat land ... ideally located near employment, public transport, and educational, recreational and community facilities," Lynn said.
The land is north of the Te Rapa Fonterra site but doesn't have noise issues, she said.

Yet representatives of Fonterra want council to keep homes out of Te Rapa North - a strategic industrial node.

Fonterra's site is a 24/7 operation, purposely built in an isolated location, the representatives said, and there are plenty of other spaces for housing in the city.

Northwest Rotokauri is also eyed for an SHA, through MA Development Enterprises (Made) and Green Seed Ltd.

It owns about 60 hectares and Made has experience, director Charles Ma submitted in writing, citing the Auranga development in South Auckland.

Another group, Foster Develop, has a patch of land near Hamilton Lake which could take houses.

The industrial-zoned area is in Quentin Drive, near Gilbass Avenue, Tony McLauchlan said.

But Foster and several other submitters want to be able to present these ideas when they come up, not when council asks - as the draft policy stipulates.

Cheaper houses were a hot topic on Thursday, as council policymakers had aimed to deliver through limits on house and section size for a portion of each development.

Some submitters said increased supply was the solution, but others wanted more focus on affordability.

"There is a need to establish affordability in real terms - not to just make one part of the development slightly cheaper than the rest, but still remaining out of the reach to all but the wealthy or heavily indebted," Habitat for Humanity's Central North Island general manager Nic Greene said.

Submitter Lindsay Cumberpatch saw the policy as underwhelming, but at least a start on alleviating housing pressure.

Cumberpatch is the DV Bryant Trust chief executive and said groups such as his are "prepared to leverage our balance sheets to try to do something".

Several submitters had alternative ideas - such as co-housing and pocket neighbourhoods - designed to get people interacting.

Models such as a community land trust or other land ownership structures were floated.

There were also calls for some of the money from the sale of Hamilton's pensioner housing to be reinvested in the social housing sector.
Councillors will discuss the policy at an August 24 meeting.

What is a special housing area?
* A tool to help boost housing supply
* Defined areas - can be greenfield (being developed for urban purposes for the first time) or brownfield (ie, infill)
* Chosen by councils and approved by Government
* Give developers "more permissive and faster resource consent and planning processes"
* Provided for by the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Act 2013 (HASHA Act)