What’s really preventing the adaptation-conversion of the (remaining) existing stock of housing in Christchurch so that self contained apartment style accommodation in prime residential neighborhoods in New Zealand can help fix the rental accommodation shortage? The sunday roast, that’s what! Well, also baked chippies and stir fried veggies on the hobbs top . Because having that oven (and associated hobbs) as a second oven/hobbs cooking unit in one residence – indeed on one residential site – means that you would be deemed to have two dwellings on one residential site. A regulatory no no!! It doesn’t matter that a normal residential site can have a house with second , third, or..nth … bedrooms, ensuites, baths, showers, spas, dens, music rooms, entertainment rooms, living areas, closets, laundries, attics, dining rooms, basements, decks…the defining characteristic of a second dwelling is that second fixed “cooking facility” that turns a games room bar, sink, bench top and cupboards into a “kitchen”.
How do I “know” this? At first I thought the stumbling block was the restrictive “family flat ” regulations (see my earlier post), but those regulations are so insanely anal (can I copyright that?) that they probably never were a binding constraint! But after a thorough reading and analysis of the City and BP DIstrict Plan(s) – no mean feat in itself – and then, after an iterative process, receiving information from City Planners in response to a very specific pragmatic question: how does the current residential zoning regulations and/or the “temporary accommodation” scheme apply to an attempt on the part of a private individual homeowner to supply, for rent, a decent self contained apartment in existing, green-zone area in Christchurch -” I have seen the enemy…and them is us”. I will spare you the citations to chapter and verse: the gist of it is that instead of simply having to get a building permit for safe and fire rated enclosure of an oven and stove top and have the unit installed by a qualified tradesperson, as I would in any regular kitchen, I actually have to make a full scale Resource Consent application for a special “discretionary activity” to put a second dwelling on a single residential site (for which I in Governors Bay “need” 1000 sq m and you in Christchurch “need” 450 sq m) – all of which the duty planners tell me I or anyone else would be very unlikely to get under the current regulations . Hmm ,talk about the tail wagging the dog!
No wonder the simplest approach to flexible secondary suite style housing policies in Canada defines the problem away by simple regulatory reform: permitting a second self contained living area inside an existing residence in a residential zone – no questions asked – more or less, with some exceptions about parking – except that all self contained living areas, primary or secondary, comply with the building codes of the time and the residence owner pays required taxes, rates and utilities!!