Thursday, 10 November 2016

Finally...

At last.

Last month, workers arrived and started to put advertising hoarding up...


...announcing that this former New World supermarket in Browns Bay...


...is going to be transformed into this (artist's image) very snazzy apartment block...


...of 56 apartments and 8 penthouses, with "impressive sea views" (and they will be) from level 2 up. A much needed boost to the housing supply and a much better use of prime land.

Finally.

And I say 'finally' because this is one of those Special Housing Areas where development was meant to be expedited, but where there has actually been a lag of over a year between designation as a Special Housing Area, in August 2015, and anything at all happening on the ground. The pretty pictures have been put up, and there's a sales office opened around the corner, but not a sod has yet been turned by way of actual construction.

And as I mentioned in previous posts (here, here and here) the delay in the supposedly fast-track site is all the odder, because non-Special-Housing-Area apartment blocks have been going up like billy-o in Browns Bay, including down the same street.

Now, I don't have any beef with the developers. It's their precious, and they can take their own good time to do whatever they want with it, and it looks like they're going to deliver something very nice indeed. And as we learned today (from pages 24-5 of the latest Monetary Policy Statement), there are severe capacity constraints in the Auckland building trade:
The construction industry is reportedly facing several constraints that may impede future activity, such as access to labour, materials, and funding. Most contacts are struggling to find labour to fill a wide range of positions. The labour shortage is reportedly most acute in Auckland,where high living costs are deterring construction workers from relocating from Canterbury or immigrating from overseas.
Contacts note that it is also becoming increasingly difficult to access construction materials, with shortages becoming acute for some materials. This is leading to some construction firms facing long wait-times and cost increases.
There has recently been a tightening in credit availability in the construction industry, constraining some firms’ ability to increase activity.Contacts note that new and small firms, as well as apartment developers,have been impacted most severely 
So maybe the developers couldn't have got it going any faster, even if they were dead keen to. And as I've said before, this is a sample of one, and maybe other Special Housing Areas have been bounding along faster than their non-SHA counterparts.

But it still leaves me with a nagging feeling that the interesting Special Housing Area initiative (faster planning approval in exchange for including some 'affordable' housing) didn't work out as everyone had imagined. We need to know whether this policy experiment worked, and if it did, repeat it or widen it, and if not, why.

Otherwise we'll continue to blunder around with well-intentioned housing ideas that never get properly evaluated - not a good enough approach to one of our most pressing national issues.

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