Criteria for $1b+ infrastructure fund to be released, developer hopes for kickstart

An Auckland multi-unit housing developer has welcomed the Government’s $1b-plus infrastructure fund, saying it could boost growth in cities and areas under pressure.

“This is turning the paperwork and design documentation into physical assets,” said Shane Brealey of NZ Living of the new Infrastructure Acceleration Fund.

Housing Minister Megan Woods said today details would be out next week about the $1b tranche of the Government’s $3.8b Housing Acceleration Fund announced in March.

Invitations for expressions of interest will be released next Wednesday.

The fund is designed to allocate money to infrastructure projects to unlock housing development in the short to medium term, Woods said.

“It will jump-start housing developments by funding necessary services, like roads and pipes to homes, which are currently holding up development,” she said.

Brealey said his discussions with Auckland Council and Watercare very much centered on the lack of money those public entities had to provide new or upgraded infrastructure in areas earmarked for housing development or where supply was most stretched.

“What I think much of this money could be used for is the council and Watercare on already-consented but not funded projects. It could be for projects that are on the greater extremities of the city but not only for those. It could be also for worn-out old infrastructure on brownfield sites closer to the centre,” Brealey said.

“My understanding from people at Auckland Council and Watercare is there is land ready to be developed but because funding has not been allocated for water, sewage and stormwater to support residential infrastructure, work can’t go ahead,” he said.

That could change in some parts of Auckland in particular, he says, with the new fund.

“If this funding is immediately available to free up projects not proceeding, you have to say it’s going to get things moving. There’s an enormous infrastructure lag,” Brealey said.

Brealey said NZ Living, which he owns with his wife Anna, would complete around 250 new houses this calendar year. He is developing higher-density apartment and terrace-style homes in areas undergoing urban renewal including Northcote.

The Brealeys themselves own around 100 Auckland residences which they have rented out in the newest phase to hit the development market – built to rent.

Woods said that to qualify for the funding in tier one major urban environments of Auckland, Tauranga, Wellington and Christchurch, projects would have to be 200-plus homes.

Tier two areas Rotorua, Palmerston North and Nelson would have to be 100-plus homes and in other areas of the country, 30 new homes would need to be built to meet the new fund’s criteria.

“Not every application will be funded. We have weighted the fund to support projects that will deliver the most houses where they are most needed,” Woods said.

Councils, iwi and developers are eligible to apply and will get priority funding for brownfield intensification and greenfield expansion, she said.

Developments where infrastructure investments might otherwise not be funded or not funded quickly enough to meet housing demand could also qualify.

Woods said the fund was aimed at boosting the spread of projects in different regions of big cities and regional centres.

Last month, Stats NZ said New Zealand had never had so many houses approved in any one period of time. The magic 40,000/year house barrier has been broken for the first time in nearly half a century.

Stats NZ said 41,028 new homes were consented in the year to March 2021, eclipsing the February 1974 year’s previous record of 40,225.

We’re now in a golden period for housing construction, akin only to the era when big new suburbs like Auckland’s Glenfield were built.

On May 6, construction statistics manager Michael Heslop said: “Within 10 years the number of new homes consented annually has gone from the lowest point since the 1940s to an all-time record.

“The increased number of new homes consented in recent years has mostly been due to a rise in consents for higher density homes, such as townhouses. The number of stand-alone houses consented in this period has been relatively flat,” he said.

But new homes consented per 1000 residents is still below the 1970s peak.

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