Like most New Zealand cities, Lower Hutt is in the midst of a housing crisis. The review of the district plan is an opportunity to try to address this problem.
Housing and the district plan
The district plan sets out what can be built and where it can be built. It currently defines most of the city’s housing areas as ‘general residential’ as well as eight urban centres where medium density residential is permitted.
The designation of these areas determines what owners can do with their property or how large a building they can build without needing resource consent.
Population and housing in Lower Hutt
In the last 15-20 years, the population of Lower Hutt has grown steadily. It was previously estimated that the city’s population would reach 110,000 by 2030, but it had already reached 111,800 by June 2020. In 2019, a Housing and Business Development Capacity Assessment calculated that we will need around 9600 additional dwellings by 2047.
House building in the city has not kept pace with the growth in population. The shortage of houses is contributing to a steep increase in the cost of both buying and renting houses. There has also been an increase in homelessness. Strong expected demand for housing from single people and couples without children means we don’t currently have the right kinds of housing for these households.
National Policy Statement on Urban Development
Housing problems are not unique to Lower Hutt so the government issued a National Policy Statement on Urban Development that took effect in August 2020. Amongst other things, the statement instructs councils to allow greater density housing to be built in existing residential areas.
To comply with the national policy statement, the district plan will need to redefine what can be built and where. It will have to define the areas where residential buildings larger than the current limits can be built.
The national policy statement says these areas should be city centre zones, areas within walkable distance of the centre, and areas within walkable distance of rapid transit stops (which in Lower Hutt means railway stations).
The national policy statement says councils must allow buildings of up to at least six storeys in these areas.
Greenfield land is land which has not previously been built on. There is very little greenfield land left in Lower Hutt. There are small areas around Wainuiomata and on the western hills, around Kelson for example.
Some of these areas are being developed for housing, but there are issues to solve around transport, limits to earthmoving (to prevent erosion, flood or slip risk) and three waters infrastructure.
Intensification of housing means building more dwellings on a given site than there are currently. For example, building three separate dwellings on a section that previously would contain only one. Or building a taller block containing several apartments where previously there would be only single storey houses. In other words, more people could be housed on smaller areas of land.
Some intensification is already possible in most of Lower Hutt in the form of subdividing sections to build a second or third house - infill. In designated medium-density zones, it is already possible to build larger housing blocks up to three storeys high.
What does this mean for my neighbourhood?
The likely effect of the new national policy will be to gradually change the appearance of areas around our railway stations and urban centres as higher density housing is built.
The purpose of the district plan review is to work out exactly where this kind of development can take place and what rules apply. It will consider how much intensification can be confined to the city centre and where the boundaries will be in the areas around train stations or other possible development locations.
Some residents are understandably concerned that developers will be allowed to build large blocks next to their house and they will be unable to do anything about it. This district plan review is your chance to have a say on how you think we can make space for all the new houses we will need.
Frequently asked questions
View the frequently asked questions.
You can contact the district plan team at: firstname.lastname@example.org