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Sprawl not an issue for NZ: Report

New Zealanders’ fear of urban sprawl is misplaced, says a new report into New Zealand’s lack of housing affordability.

Michael Bassett and Luke Malpass, of the New Zealand Initiative said in the report, issued today, that the shortfall of houses was due to anti-development attitudes, tight building regulations and artificial controls on land supply.

They said that less than 1% of New Zealand had been built upon, including landfill and roads. “Fears of ‘using up all our farmland’ are grossly exaggerated…. this fear of ‘urban sprawl’ has resulted in urban limits and restrictive and prescriptive zoning, which have conferred a virtual monopoly market power on landowners near the city fringes.”

The authors said that, regardless of how many thousands of sections were available within urban limits, they were only worth the developer opening them up at a certain price.

“The experience of Auckland’s Metropolitan Urban Limit (MUL) is similar to that of Portland, Oregon, with land outside the city limits costing nine times less than within city limits.”

New Zealand’s rate of building since the 1980s has been less than the levels reached in the 1960s and 1970s, despite a bigger population.

But they said buyer perceptions had also changed.

“It should also be remembered that since the 1980s, houses in New Zealand have not only become more expensive but they are also much bigger with a far greater square footage and better insulation and fittings. These improvements are partly the result of changes to government and local authority rules in recent years. As a result, many first-home buyers now have an unrealistic expectation of what standard of house is available at what price.”

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