Enabling Housing Density

The Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2021 requires councils in New Zealand’s largest urban areas to adopt medium density residential standards to boost housing supply and enable more types of housing.

Enabling density in and around our largest cities

Increasing urban density is critical to addressing the housing shortage in New Zealand because it enables more houses to be built in areas that have access to jobs, public transport, amenities, and other community facilities.  

When more people live in an area, there is more investment in the parts that enhance a community such as parks and open spaces, streets, schools, health services, and businesses. It also supports more even growth across cities. This is critical to creating thriving communities where everyone has a place to call home. 

By removing restrictive planning rules, New Zealanders can expect to see more medium density homes being built across more of our major cities.

Medium density residential standards 

The Medium Density Residential Standards enable people to build up to three units and three storeys on most sites in Auckland, and greater Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington, and Christchurch without the need for a land use resource consent, provided all other rules and standards in the district plan have been complied with. Exceptions to individual sites and areas will apply based on qualifying matters set out in the NPS-UD.

Councils must publicly notify their proposed changes to their district plans by the end of August 2022.

Exceptions to individual sites and areas will apply based on qualifying matters set out in the NPS-UD. 

Density standards

District plans must include the density standards shown in the table below (or standards that enable greater development) from August 2022.

Density standards
Number of residential units per site Maximum  3
Building height  Maximum  11m+ an additional 1m for pitched roof 
Height in relation to boundary   Maximum  4m + 60° recession plane  
Setbacks Minimum  Front yard: 1.5m 

Side yard: 1m 

Rear yard: 1m (excluded on corner sites) 

Building coverage  Maximum  50% of the net site area 
Outdoor living space (one per unit) Minimum  Ground floor: 20m2, 3m dimension
Above ground floor:8m2, 1.8m dimension
Outlook space (per unit)  Minimum  Principal living room: 4m depth, 4m width

All other habitable rooms: 1m depth, 1m width

Glazing   Minimum  20% glazing of the street-facing facade
Landscaping  Minimum   20% of the developed site with grass or plants

Where these standards apply

The standards apply to all residential zones in the Tier 1 urban environments, except: 

  •  large lot residential zones and settlement zones 
  • areas predominantly urban in character that the 2018 census recorded as having a resident population of less than 5,000, unless a local authority intends the area to become part of an urban environment, or 
  • offshore islands 

The Minister for the Environment, in consultation with the Minister of Housing and Minister of Crown Māori Relations, can require some Tier 2 councils to adopt the medium density standards if there is an acute housing need.  Tier 3 councils can also ask the Minister for the Environment if they can adopt the standards.

Tier 1 Urban Environments

  • Auckland (Auckland Council) 
  • Christchurch (Canterbury Regional Council, Christchurch City Council, Selwyn District Council and Waimakariri District Council) 
  • Wellington (Wellington Regional Council, Wellington City Council, Porirua City Council, Hutt City Council, Upper Hutt City Council, Kāpiti Coast District Council) 
  • Tauranga (Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Tauranga City Council and Western Bay of Plenty District Council) 
  • Hamilton (Waikato Regional Council, Hamilton City Council, Waikato District Council and Waipa District Council). 

Tier 2 Urban Environments

  • Whangārei (Northland Regional Council, Whangārei District Council) 
  • Rotorua (Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Rotorua District Council) 
  • New Plymouth (Taranaki Regional Council, New Plymouth District Council 
  • Napier-Hastings (Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, Napier City Council and Hastings District Council) 
  • Palmerston North (Manawatū-Whanganui Regional Council and Palmerston North City Council) 
  • Nelson Tasman (Nelson City Council, Tasman District Council) 
  • Queenstown (Otago Regional Council, Queenstown Lakes District Council) 
  • Dunedin (Otago Regional Council and Dunedin City Council). 

Tier 3 Urban Environments

  • All other local authorities with jurisdiction over an “urban environment” are also required to comply with the NPS-UD. 
  • An “urban environment” is defined in the NPS-UD as “any area of land (regardless of size, and irrespective of local authority or statistical boundaries) that: (a) is, or is intended to be, predominantly urban in character; and (b) is, or is intended to be, part of a housing and labour market of at least 10,000 people”. 

The intensification streamlined planning process

A new planning process has been introduced to support councils to implement the intensification policies of the National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD) and adopt the density standards. This process is called the Intensification Streamlined Planning Process (ISPP).   

The ISPP is based on the existing streamlined planning process under the Resource Management Act, but is intended to be faster, easier, and less costly for councils. The ISPP enables the intensification outcomes of the NPS-UD to be achieved at least a year earlier.   

Councils would be required to use the ISPP to incorporate medium density residential standards into their plans. 

Implementation deadlines and guidance 

Tier 1 councils need to publicly notify the new rules and policies enabling medium density and intensification in their district plans by 20 August 2022.  

Te Tūāpapa Kura Kāinga - Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and Ministry for the Environment will provide implementation support to councils. Together, they will also develop a national medium density design guide, in consultation with local government, mana whenua, and industry stakeholders.  

Published: January 19, 2022