The Coalition for more Homes acknowledges the bipartisan drafting of the RMA Amendment Bill, something rarely done in Parliament. This is a strong acknowledgment of the seriousness of New Zealand’s housing crisis.
We strongly support the intent of the Medium Density Residential Standards (MDRS). Enabling three storeys everywhere allows for a greater range of housing typologies from stand-alone homes and terraced houses to apartments, and a range of dwelling sizes, from smaller households to intergenerational whānau, to be permitted in all neighbourhoods of Tier 1 cities.
The Coalition for More Homes alternative standards recommend a number of changes to the MDRS, to ensure the standards effectively incentivise and enable quality housing development in our neighbourhoods. These recommendations are the result of consultation with a number of architects and urban designers who regularly contribute to medium density urban developments in the public and private sector across New Zealand.
We believe quality design is less about attention to aesthetic preferences, but more about how location, aspect and form of homes support our wellbeing, and contribute to the wider neighbourhood, in part by providing more homes for people to live in. Unfortunately, the predominant experience with medium density housing in suburban New Zealand has been with ‘sausage flat’ and ‘infill’ - typologies that often create issues with privacy, private space, and sunlight access. The MDRS in its current form is likely to exacerbate these issues.
Our alternative standards prioritise development at the front of a site to support better urban design outcomes, including outlook spaces, privacy, sunlight access and interface with the street and public realm that support safety. Enabling development right up to the front of the property is an efficient use of urban land. By removing the height, boundary controls and front yard requirements, windows and balconies can become oriented towards the street and back, managing privacy, and open space can be unified as a single, large backyard.
When multiple neighbouring sites are developed in this manner, you get a perimeter block, the common typology in most European cities. As our cities slowly develop over time, we support standards that work towards creating perimeter blocks. In this process, development will strengthen street activation, safety and privacy and efficiently use the site area through development.
We recognise that more traditional infill housing to the rear of the property can have a role in addressing the housing crisis. Our alternative standards still allow for low numbers of new units at the rear of sites but with restrictions in place to ensure quality outcomes, including privacy. For example, an additional house or granny flat, particularly on larger sections. However, higher quantities and densities of development to the rear of sites will lead to negative outcomes including privacy and safety issues.
Our alternative standards for the MDRS seek to enable more compact urban forms, which can reduce greenhouse gas emissions in transport emissions. These are unequivocally ‘good’ outcomes.