Jamie Hosking: Build up, not out to become world’s most liveable city

nzheraldJamie Hosking  |  5:30 AM Wednesday May 22, 2013

Urban intensification is the elephant in the room when it comes to affordable housing.

Former Reserve Bank governor Don Brash recently called for the opposite of intensification: relaxation of the metropolitan urban limits. The accord between Auckland Council and central government includes plans for more greenfields development on the edge of town. And the Budget suggested that if councils do not free up greenfields land for development, central government will over-ride them.

Much of this is being done in the name of affordable housing. Yet the main solution to the spiralling cost of land is staring policymakers in the face: intensification. Because it’s not the cost of building houses that is driving affordability woes, it’s the cost of land.

Intensification means “building up” rather than “building out”: density instead of urban sprawl. Crucially, it requires no new land. Building two storeys instead of one doubles housing capacity and uses no additional land. The cost of land is divided by the number of storeys.

“Building up” can’t deliver quarter acre sections. But it can deliver something much more important: liveability…

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