Monday, 30 April 2012

Christchurch's rental housing crisis can be helped with the stroke of a regulatory pen

Everyone agrees that Christchurch has a rental housing crisis. But we are told that central government can do nothing to help create a rapid solution. Dr John Fountain, senior lecturer in economics at the University of Canterbury, disagrees. In a recent article in The Press Fountain puts forward one way to help deal with the housing crisis.
Simply follow the example of Vancouver, Canada. City planners there have embraced a wide range of initiatives to legalise and encourage secondary suite accommodation in residential areas, to help meet the problem of unaffordable accommodation shortages in this beautiful, but expensive, city.

City planners (or EQC commissioners) can do the same thing here in Christchurch with the stroke of the regulatory pen. Simply remove the existing stifling regulations on family flats and secondary suites in our city plan (keeping all the other good building consent processes already in place).

A secondary suite is a self- contained dwelling unit that has been created "within" a larger principal dwelling.

A unit typically shares the main dwelling's yard, parking area, laundry and storage space, but has its own kitchen, living area, bathroom and entrance.

Generally, no ownership nor subdivision is permitted (although ownership solutions in the form of laneway houses, smaller self contained units or cottages in the back of a residential property, work well in Vancouver).

Almost half of all new residential homes now contain one or more secondary suites, adding to the stock of tens of thousands of such suites in Vancouver.

High rise tenements in marginal regions that become tomorrow's ghettos and today's eyesores, are not wanted in Vancouver. But secondary suites in prime residential areas, like Kitsilano and Commercial Drive, are actively embraced.
The problem for Christchurch is that the current city plan permits small family flats or secondary suites in residential areas, but only under extreme restrictions that effectively negate the viability of having extra self contained accommodation on a property. Not helpful.

Dr Fountain continues,
B&B's are of course completely legal anywhere in Christchurch, with a nominal restriction to no more than four guests, but no B&B is permitted to have a "kitchen" - the trinity of a stove/hobbs with a sink and benchtop.

No one knows how many non-consented secondary suites or B&B's with functioning kitchens that there are in Christchurch. But in the past two years they will all have been put to very good use, illegally of course.

To continue to make secondary suites persona non grata in post quake Christchurch with its serious accommodation shortages is bordering on the insane.

It's really a matter of demand and supply. Give a solo parent or family with small kids, young single professionals, older retirees, or migrant trades persons and their families, a self contained two-bedroom apartment attached to an existing, beautiful home in a pristine residential area close to schools, parks and restaurants/shops and the demand soars. And from Vancouver's experience, so does the supply.
So everybody can gain, if only the regulators would allow it.

1 comment:

Eric Crampton said...

Prescriptive plans just aren't robust to shocks.