You may not have heard of the catchily named Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2021, but you probably have heard in the media about proposed changes to planning laws that would allow much more dense development of housing in our biggest cities. This change is in an effort to help increase the supply and affordability of housing in major urban centres.
The amendment to the RMA requires Tier 1 Councils (which includes Christchurch City and the Waimakariri and Selwyn Districts) to change their planning rules so that most of their residential areas are zoned for medium density housing. It also adds a schedule to the RMA which specifies the new planning rules for these zones. These changes must be implemented by Councils by August 20, 2022.
What these changes mean
The new standards allow for up to 3 units per site as of right and provides for much more permissive building height and boundary setback standards than, for example the current Christchurch City Residential Medium Density zone. The new rules will enable, but not enforce, a much higher density of development than currently allowed. If a new residential development complies with the new standards, it will be a permitted activity and will not require resource consent. It will of course still require building consent.
The new rules will not apply to Residential Large Lot Zones, Settlement Zones, designations, open spaces, or existing residential zones that are denser than the new rules would allow. It also may not apply to areas subject to a qualifying matter, which is where the Council determines it is inappropriate to apply the rules because of national significance, nationally important infrastructure, iwi participation legislation, heritage issues, natural hazard issues or other consideration. We will most likely not know until nearer August 20 where the new provisions will apply in Christchurch and other urban centres in the greater Christchurch region.
Councils’ subdivision rules must be made consistent with the level of building density that is permitted by the new law. In our experience, redevelopment under medium density rules is generally driven by building design and construction, rather than by subdivision to create empty lots. The process needs to start with the development of a concept design for the new houses, undertaken by an architect or architectural designer.
Fox & Associates Ltd can assist with this by providing a high-quality topographic survey on which to base the design, and by providing advice around how best to subdivide the development once it is completed. Once the building consent process is complete, we can start the subdivision process, creating boundaries around or through the new buildings.
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