Minor Housing Units

One of the housing opportunities which appears likely to change under the new Auckland Unitary Plan is for Minor Household Units (MHU). We think MHUs play a big part in meeting Auckland’s social and housing needs. They allow dependent relatives to live close by family but retaining their independence; and they also provide lower cost housing for options for many people, with very few adverse effects.

MHUs are a flexible living format which often changes as owners needs change – they can house children, parents, and friends; and in between times other people needing affordable housing. And there are usually few negative effects for neighbours or local areas at all, and many positive effects for owners, including companionship and security.

MHUs are currently provided for in all district plans, subject to district-specific controls. For example, the operative Auckland District Plan: Rodney Section, defines a Minor Household Unit as a household unit with a maximum gross floor area of 65m2 that is secondary to a principal household unit already established on the same certificate of title.

MHUs can be applied for within any rural or residential zone provided that certain development controls are met. However, consents are more easily obtained in some zones than others. The notified version of the PAUP (notified 30 September 2013) excluded any provision for a MHU in rural zones, and only for the conversion of an existing dwelling into two dwellings within residential zones.

Terra Nova Planning (and others) lodged submissions to the PAUP, seeking the introduction of the same, or equivalent, provisions for MHUs as currently exist in the Auckland District Plan: Rodney Section.

Our submission emphasised that MHUs are a socially valuable asset, and an important contributor to Auckland’s housing stock; providing housing options for varied social requirements and helping to achieve the Auckland Plan’s vision of a quality compact Auckland.

As is set out in the Auckland Plan, to which the PAUP is intended to give effect, an estimated that 400,000 new dwellings are required over the next 30 years to accommodate an additional one million people. It has become clear now that there is a substantial shortfall now and in the immediate future at least.

The Hearings have now been held for both rural and residential zones and a revised approach to MHUs (now called ‘subsidiary dwellings’) has been proposed by Council. In rural zones the Council proposes that a subsidiary dwelling may be erected (subject to a resource consent) provided that it is occupied exclusively by dependent relatives of the occupiers of the main dwelling.

The most recent proposals for residential zones allow for minor dwellings in the Large Lot zone, and in some instances within the Single House zone (subject to historic and environmental overlays applied to the site).

At this point the form of the final rules for Minor Household Units is unknown. The Independent Hearings Panel is likely to make its recommendations to the Auckland Council in July 2016, and the Plan made operative within a few months after that. If you are considering a MHU on your property, it may be judicious to do so before July this year, in order to ensure that the application is assessed under the current district plan rules.

Should you have any queries relating to this article or any planning matters, feel free to contact us to discuss further.