Skip to main content

Councils are Increasing Residential Density, but why, who does it benefit?

By Kerryn Penn, Planner, Baseline Group, | Apr 21, 2023

It is a well-known fact that New Zealand has a shortage of affordable housing. Often the question asked is: “How has this happened?” Numerous academic reports over the years have attempted to dissect what we now refer to as the ‘housing crisis’.

From these reports, it was determined that the Economic Law of Supply and Demand, is at the heart of the issue. Meaning, New Zealand has been experiencing a large growth in housing demand (due to other determining factors) while the supply continues to decrease. This lack of supply has forced the price of housing to increase thus becoming more and more unaffordable to the average New Zealander. Turning this Law on its head is thought to be the solution to the lack of supply. To do this, New Zealand must increase the supply to make the average house price fall, and in turn housing shall become more affordable.

To increase the supply, Central Government has sought to remove restrictive development rules through the Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2021, to enforce medium density in residential development. Through this new legislation, territorial authorities, including Selwyn District Council, are required to implement medium density housing standards into their District Plans as soon as possible. In Selwyn, the Council chose to implement these new standards into the District Plan through the creation of a new Medium Density Residential Zone which, is to be applied to existing residential land in Lincoln, Rolleston and Prebbleton.

This new zone will allow for the construction of three units on one site (with a minimum area of 400m2), built to a height of 11 m and covering 50% of the property. While this encourages an increase in residential density, this does not mean that urban design has been disregarded. Additional standards are required to be complied with, otherwise, resource consent will be required. This will require the proposal to undergo an assessment against its merits in respect to the District Plan as well as assess any actual or potential effects to the environment. Even if resource consent is not required, professionals including planners, architects and urban designers who are involved in the conception of these developments will be working behind the scenes to ensure that design principles are given effect to.

While these changes can appear confronting, the introduction of medium density will have the immediate benefit of increasing the local housing supply. As a result, the population of Selwyn may increase, thus bringing more education and employment opportunities, local businesses and overall growth for the local economy.

This new zone may appear at first glance, to be aimed at greenfield developers who only want to maximise their business investments, but it is also there for anyone who owns land in the District. There is a surplus of possibility when it comes to land development, which is why it is encouraged to engage a land development expert such as a planner, to help unlock your property potential.

Articles you might be interested in