The Herald reports:
New Housing Minister Nick Smith is vowing to break the “stranglehold” of Auckland Council’s policy of containing urban sprawl – a policy he says is “killing the dreams of Aucklanders” by driving up house prices.
In his first major interview on how he plans to tackle the housing affordability issue handed to him in January’s Cabinet reshuffle, he said his focus would be on opening up land supply because land prices were the biggest factor putting home ownership out of reach of many Aucklanders.
“There’s no question in my mind that we have to break through the stranglehold that the existing legal metropolitan urban limit has on land supply,” he said.
Excellent. This is the first time a Minister has been this explicit.
The MUL is the enemy of affordable housing. No amount of subsidies, intensification, central planning, economies of scale can defy the reality that if the supply of land for housing is artificially constrained, then the price of land (and hence housing) will increase in line with demand. Arguing against this is like arguing against gravity.
“When we are looking at growth in Auckland of 2 per cent a year, we are going to need sections at the rate of 12,000 a year,” he said. “The metropolitan urban limit is a stranglehold on land that is killing the dreams of Aucklanders wanting to own their home and we have to work with the council to find the tools to increase that land supply and bring section prices back.”
If someone wants to be elected Mayor of Auckland, they should run on a policy of increasing the MUL, to reduce housing costs.
But Mr Brown said Aucklanders had already agreed on the city’s “compact footprint” through developing the first Auckland Plan, and Dr Smith should stop debating it.
He said the plan was based on “a model that is developing truly internationally competitive cities with strong economic bases to them and that give rise to outstanding transport operations within a more compact framework”.
“Have a look at Melbourne,” he said. “Have a look at Hong Kong. Have a look at London. All of those cities, by and large, are operating off what is regarded as best practice.”
Comparing Auckland, one of the world’s smallest cities, to London and Hong Kong – two of the world’s three global centres is ridicolous.
But the comparison to Australian cities such as Melbourne is more sensible. Len Brown is saying that Auckland should be more compact, such as Melbourne and Australian cities are. So what are their urban densities? Demographia has this 2012 report:
- Adelaide 1,400 people per square km
- Brisbane 1,000
- Canberra 1,100
- Melbourne 1,600
- Perth 1,300
- Sydney 2,100
And what is Auckland? 2,400 people per square km.
Auckland has twice the urban density of Melbourne – which Len Brown cites as a model. If we increased the Auckland urban limit by 50%, then it would be the same as Melbourne.