New Zealand has been in the news lately for sweeping housing legislation that effectively abolishes single-family zoning throughout most of Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington, and Christchurch.
But before I get into how this will all work, here’s a bit of background from an article that Matt Gurney wrote talking about Toronto’s inability to build affordable housing and create safe streets:
Now it’s time to segue back to the New Zealand thing, and there’s no particularly graceful way to do it, so I’ll just be blunt and inelegant: the federal government in New Zealand intervened on local housing rules because there was a crisis that local leaders were unable or unwilling to address. New Zealand has severe housing-affordability challenges (though Canada seems determined to close the gap). This has been a problem in New Zealand for years, and not enough was done, so the federal government stepped in… The government expects this to immediately spur construction of new housing units.
It is no doubt a top down approach. But we all know how difficult it is to build anything at all when you start from the other end.
So the way this new legislation will work is that it forces local councils to allow landowners to build up to 3 homes and 3 storeys on most lots. This is instead of 1 home per lot. The maximum site coverage has also been increased to 50%. And all of this will be available on an as-of-right basis, so no special permissions or variances needed.
The pitch is that this will unlock as many as 105,000 new homes in already built-up areas. This is, of course, a good thing for a whole host of reasons. It uses land and infrastructure more efficiently, it makes public transit more viable, and it increases housing supply in a highly constrained market.
I suspect that we will be seeing a lot more of this in the coming years.
I suppose that like a lot of other things that are good for everyone we will see a bunch of local opposition as well.. petitions, marching in the streets, lying in front of bulldozers etc. (believe it or not I actually had that happen on a project)
I think there is going to be an interesting debate about how much “localism” there should be. When “localism” starts to inhibit / prevent the delivery of larger strategic concerns (affordable housing, Climate change initiatives, etc), I think it will be overridden.
I suspect that the Anglosphere has over adopted “localism” to the dis-benefited of the wider society and there will be a swing away from “localism”, but hopefully never to the extent that motorways can be bulldozed through cities
Japan mandates zoning from the top. The video below is a good little explainer
I understand, Germany has the right to build in their laws, which along with the ability for long term rentals has prevented such an affordability crisis.