Auckland not ahead of housing shortfall, despite record-number of dwelling consents - expert

Auckland’s newly re-elected mayor Phil Goff last week said the city was starting to catch up with its housing supply shortfall with its record-breaking number of dwelling consents in the past year.

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AUT’s head of Built Environment John Tookey says we can never have too much infrastructure. Source: Breakfast

But, an expert says housing and infrastructure development will always be a matter of catch-up.

AUT’s head of Built Environment John Tookey told TVNZ 1’s Breakfast this morning there was no such thing as a silver bullet to solve the country’s lack of housing and infrastructure.

“You can never have too much of it,” Mr Tookey said of infrastructure. “It’s difficult to get ahead of the problem.”

In the Auckland Council’s latest release of housing information, it showed an all-time record of 14,634 dwelling consents in the year to September.

Mayor Phil Goff said in a statement: “With this level of consents being issued, we are now meeting the demand for housing created by increased population and can start to catch up on Auckland’s housing supply shortfall.”

“We’ve consented a thousand more dwellings in the past five months than we did in the entire 12 months of the 2012/2013 year.”

But, Mr Tookey said dwelling consents and completed homes were two different things. He said Auckland was not meeting its housing shortfall.

“[The previous Government was] talking about 17,000 a year just to get ahead of demand or get to a point where we have parity with demand,” he said.

“Of those 14,000 [consents], how many are going to be built this time next year?”

He said it was a chicken-and-egg situation when juggling infrastructure requirements and housing developments.

There were instances of dwelling consents such as the Auckland suburb of Kumeu where development was stopped due to a lack of infrastructure like schools and roads.

“The problem, fundamentally, is the fact that if you’re a developer, you want to be able to develop your properties in a location which is heavily serviced by all the various different horizontal infrastructure you need,” Mr Tookey said.

Mr Tookey said councils were reluctant to invest infrastructure in areas that were not yet highly populated and were lacking in ratepayers. He said it took a “suck it up buttercup moment” where someone decides to invest, “at which point, everything opens up”.

He said there were always going to be naysayers who would not see the value of infrastructure development.

Mr Tookey used the example of the Auckland Harbour Bridge where people were initially unsure of its need because of existing ferry services. The bridge is now the main route into the North Shore and its initial capacity had to be increased with clip-on lanes.

“The challenge for any politician or any structural engineer, for example, is trying to please all of the people all of the time, which is not a possible thing,” he said.

“You’re going to annoy some people, you’re going to please other people.”