Thursday, June 13, 2024

Major changes to Hamilton planning rules on the cards for 2024

Hamilton City Council says major changes to Hamilton’s District Plan are on the cards for early 2024 as the Council looks to address growth challenges within its planning framework.

A report to today’s Strategic Growth and District Plan Committee notes how Hamilton will respond to the impacts of climate change and housing affordability in two significant plan changes to be notified for public consultation in the first half of next year.

Acting-Chair of Strategic Growth and District Plan Committee, Councillor Sarah Thomson said these changes would consider the impacts of new flooding information and how to address some of the affordability issues for people trying to get on the housing market. Crucially, both will happen before more intensive housing is enabled.

In August, Hamilton was granted an extension to Plan Change 12 by the Minister for the Environment until 20 December 2024, so the impacts of flooding could be fully assessed.

“Our population is growing quickly and that’s going to have a big impact on our city if we don’t put the right plans in place now. The Minister gave us extra time to consider the impacts of intensification on natural hazards before any final decisions are made. Now we need to use it,” Cr Thomson said.

“Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent due to climate change, and we need to make sure we build our city so that it can be resilient. Already this year, we’ve seen widespread flooding in Auckland and the East Coast.”

Plan Change 14 will look to improve how new development responds to flooding to help better protect people and property in Hamilton. This includes considering areas where water is expected to flow overland in an extreme weather event and where there is likely to be ponding in high rainfall events.

“Over the past few years, we’ve updated flood mapping for nearly 90% of Hamilton, we’re in a good place to make sure we’re adapting and building the right things, in the right places. Practically, that could be rules around the design of buildings or not developing in some areas at all. These changes will help protect our people, property, and environment, especially our river,” said Cr Thomson.

The second change will introduce a concept called inclusionary zoning, to help with the supply of affordable housing. Council is working alongside Waipā and Waikato District Councils to create a consistent approach across the region for how new developments can contribute towards improving housing affordability.

Chair of the recently established Housing Working Group, Councillor Anna Casey-Cox said while Government was focused on pushing councils to increase their housing supply, there was evidence that suggests this doesn’t necessarily increase affordability.

“The market isn’t delivering the types of homes that suit everyone in our community, so we need to think differently to drive different outcomes,” she said.

Investigating the use of inclusionary zoning was one of 11 key actions identified in Council’s Housing Strategy which was adopted in March 2021. A resolution was passed by Council in August 2022 for staff to begin preparing the plan change based on a preferred option.

This option could require developers in existing urban areas (brownfield) to contribute cash or units and those in new areas (greenfield) to contribute land or sections for affordable housing, Cr Casey-Cox said.

“Various types of inclusionary zoning have been used successfully in Queenstown and around the world. In Hamilton, it will build on the work already being done by Waikato Housing Initiative and others to address the affordability issues across the region.

“It’s not the only solution but part of a suite of actions being taken by councils, community organisations and other agencies to work together to define what housing affordability means to us and improve housing outcomes for our whole community.”

Other incentives Council could use include development bonuses for including affordable housing in new developments and master-planning of new greenfield areas to ensure a mix of housing types, she said.

Council says staff will begin discussions with key stakeholders towards the end of the year, with a full public notification process expected for both changes in the first half of 2024.  

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