No consent, no problem? 60sqm cabins could be built without red tape, easing the Barrier's housing crunch. Photo / Eric Petschek

Barrier Building Bonanza? Granny Flat Reforms Could Slash Costs Amidst Housing Crisis

No consent, no problem? 60sqm cabins could be built without red tape, easing the Barrier’s housing crunch. Photo / Eric Petschek / CC

Great Barrier Island could soon see a housing boom, with new reforms set to make building cheaper by exempting simple standalone houses up to 60 square meters from the consenting process.

The island, struggling with housing availability and affordability, saw a population surge of 33.7% between 2018 and 2023, taking the number of residents to 1,251. Despite this, the number of houses increased by just 13.4%, adding only 156 new homes.

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters and RMA Reform Minister Chris Bishop announced the reform plans during the government’s post-cabinet press conference in Wellington this afternoon.

“Making it easier to build granny flats will make it more affordable for families to live the way that suits them best,” Mr. Peters declared.

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He pointed out that over a quarter of households that do not own their home spend more than 40% of their income on housing.

“Unlocking the space in the backyards of family members opens the door to new ways of living,” he added.

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Great Barrier Island boasts some of the cheapest land in Auckland, making it an attractive option for prospective homeowners. However, the cost of freighting building materials from the mainland can significantly inflate expenses, adding many thousands, if not tens of thousands, to the overall cost of a small build.

Granny flats, especially prefabs are a versatile solution, according to Peters.

“We know granny flats are a great option for seniors,” Mr. Peters said, “but they’re also increasingly popular with other families, such as those who want homes where… children can live at home but maintain some privacy and independence, or families who want to provide extra support to a loved one.”

“The National-NZ First Coalition Agreement commits the government to amending the Building Act and the resource consent system to make it easier to build granny flats or other small structures up to 60m², and today’s announcement is the first step to deliver that.” Mr. Peters emphasized.

Bishop claimed the reforms would save thousands of dollars, and eliminate the lengthy consenting process.

“Removing the regulatory red tape will not only speed up the build process, it is also estimated to save up to $6,500 just in the standard building and resource consenting fees per build, not to mention all the savings in time and resource.” Bishop said.

“Today’s announcement fits within the government’s wider package of work to streamline the building consent system and address the housing crisis through our ‘Going for Housing Growth’ agenda.”

He highlighted that the government is publishing a discussion document with proposed changes. “Many district plans already allow granny flats without resource consent, but there’s a lack of consistency and different standards across the country.”

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“We’re proposing a National Environmental Standard (NES) to require all councils to permit a granny flat on sites in rural and residential zones without resource consent. An NES means changes can come into force quickly,” Mr. Bishop explained.

The discussion document proposes adding a new schedule to the Building Act 2004 to provide for simple standalone houses up to 60 square meters. The proposed legislative amendments include coordinated changes across the building and resource management systems.

“There will be safeguards to ensure these granny flats continue to meet New Zealanders’ expectations for building performance and quality, and appropriately manage environmental effects. We want these to be safe, healthy, and durable homes,” Mr. Bishop stressed.

The government is seeking public feedback on the proposals, with consultation opening on Monday, June 17, and submissions accepted until 5pm Monday, August 12, 2024. Feedback can be provided online or via email at grannyflats@mbie.govt.nz

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