The anti-intensification media blitz

Do you want to see more people in good homes, but are starting to have real doubts about the merits of the Medium Density housing bill? You may be experiencing the blitz effect


The vigilant folks at Mediawatch made an interesting observation this week: the mainstream media’s coverage of housing intensification being blitzed by opponents of the Medium Density Residential bill doing quite a lot of scaremongering, and the media outlets duly giving them airtime and allowing some untruths to stand unchallenged.

Excellently, Mediawatch calls out their own stable, RadioNZ, along with the big daily papers.

“Opponents of the bipartisan bill aimed at enabling housing blitzed the media over the past few weeks. Many of the reports failed to include relevant context and balancing opinion.”

To try and even the scales a bit they do something unusual for Mediawatch and actually get someone on to provide the counterpoint.

It’s really interesting to reflect on how one’s own perceptions of the Bill’s robustness are affected by even incidentally consuming mainstream media.

This has real impact and is complementing heavy-duty lobbying of key politicians in a battle for hearts and minds on which the opponents seem to be making some ground. The battle for our cities is happening a lot earlier than 2022

So thanks, Mediawatch. Keep up the good scrutiny.

https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/mediawatch/audio/2018823128/an-anti-intensification-housing-media-blitz

5 comments on “The anti-intensification media blitz”

  • Anon says:

    The first link (seem to be making some ground) in the penultimate paragraph doesn’t work. Feel free to delete this comment once you’ve fixed it.

  • WE ARE NEWTOWN says:

    From where we stand here in Newtown the Housing Debate over last eighteen months has indeed been lacking balance..but I’m afraid its the opposite view to what you present! Those who favour deregulation and blanket up zoning have run a very good campaign and have had a direct hotline to most media outlets who generally follow the false narrative that its property owners protecting their sunlight stopping affordable housing being built. Rather than supporting such a divisive campaign can I ask you to consider an alternative that works with communities, as opposed to scapegoating them, to promote solutions from the ground up, not the top down.

    • Kōrero Wellington says:

      Kia ora! Isabella here, just my personal opinion 🙂

      FIrstly: Tautoko for your efforts, and your abundantly good intentions.

      Secondly: the folks called out by Mediawatch (including our beloved Simon Wilson, wahhhh) have in some cases, been saying things that are manifestly untrue.
      The nuances of the laws, regulations and bill proposals are complex and I’ll presume c0ckup rather than conspiracy, but the overriding thing is that everyone needs the same set of facts to inform our opinions and decisions. So allowing non-facts to get momentum and stand as truths is bad for the public discourse, and we can all feel pretty disappointed in our big media outlets.

      Thirdly: If I”m not mistaken, what would actually deliver the Newtown I think you want (something like the Newtown Marian describes here https://medium.com/wellywood-woman-diary/bringing-both-into-wellingtons-spatial-plan) is something we *should* have. That is: a government willing to compulsorily acquire the whole heart of Newtown from the present plethora of private owners (or allow a major developer to compulsorily acquire it), and develop it with enthusiasm. This would mean a Newtown that’s mostly remaining lower-rise, with a strongly intensified heart around Adelaide/Riddiford of density done well.

      That’s also something that’s simply not on the cards.
      While some of the legislative powers do exist, technically, our realpolitik simply precludes the govt (let alone a developer) exercising them this decade or next. The government are too afraid of the immense backlash from a key demographic: existing property owners. So it’s just not gonna happen.

      So that leaves all of us in this invidious position.

      Given the horrifying human cost of the housing crisis, and that it’s deeply irresponsible to entertain greenfields given the climate crisis (and many other reasons), our choice is the lesser of two evils.

      Either we get an interminable perpetuation of the status quo, and just lurch along hoping that some future government will get some cojones and start targeted compulsory acquisition and good development.
      OR

      Enabling private owners to develop, and doing so over a seemingly vast area, hoping that enough value-motivated landowners choose to intensify as their will, finances and inclination permit.
      Which will, yes, result in a totally haphazard popcorn distribution of higher density amongst lower.

      But that’s actually the best option we have for getting more homes, in places where people can live good lives.

      This situation absolutely sucks, and we should absolutely have that more deliberately intensified approach to our suburbs. But it’s simply not going to happen in the next decade or two (at best).

      So here we are: support popcorn-distribution of intensification, or effectively see the vast and tragic human cost of our housing crisis and say “yep, that’s OK.”

      Disgusting situation for us all to be in. But that’s what it is.

  • Julienz says:

    Thank you Isabella for your comment above which strikes me as incredibly sad but also unfortunately probably true. In 20 to 30 years time when all us baby boomers die off and the current young generation are at a different life stage there may well be a mass of shoeboxes around that no-one wants, another situation no-one wants to be in but regrettably probably unavoidable.

    I have been trying to get some traction for the idea of a “free plan and smooth building consent process” as a way to ameliorate at least some of the worst effects of what you call popcorn distribution. It seems to me a way of easing the way to “density done well.”

    I’m not advocating for the specific designs referred to in the article but for architects and designers to come up with something that works in the Wellington context which is endorsed by WCC which makes it easy for developers and ordinary people on larger sites to do a somewhat better thing. I guess you could call it a nudge. The worst that could happen is that no-one likes it and it isn’t taken up.

    Here is a link:

    https://slate.com/business/2021/04/good-design-bad-cities-zoning-commissions-preservation-boards.html

    For those who are in TLDR camp:

    “The city of Bryan, Texas, is experimenting with a similar program that aims to jump-start the construction of “missing middle housing,” the type of small, multifamily infill that once populated urban neighborhoods across the country. Bryan, which sits directly adjacent to College Station and Texas A&M University, is trying a technique called “pattern zoning.” As of fall 2020, the city has four designs on file for its Midtown area, which can be downloaded, remixed, customized, and deployed free of charge—permit included.

    The designs for the Midtown Pattern Zoning, which won a charter award from the Congress for the New Urbanism, have porches and gables and peaked roofs, board siding, and white trim against darker base coats. They achieve what has been called “stealth density”—multifamily buildings that fit the mold of traditional single-family homes. If it is a deviation from context that gets neighbors riled up about new buildings, they will have little recourse to complain here.

    We’re interested in alternative models for distributing missing middle housing, because nothing we’re doing seems to be working,” said Matthew Hoffman, the Arkansas-based architect who managed the project and designed the preapproved houses. “Much as I am frustrated by NIMBYism, it’s incredible pernicious, but they have a point that most of the stuff that’s been delivered just fucking sucks.” He is bothered by the notion of “neighborhood character” being some kind of proto-racist term: “Actually, it’s a really good idea! There are beautiful neighborhoods in this country that are both diverse and beautiful. The idea that it’s something that happened in the past that we can’t do anymore? That’s incredibly sad.”

    Even a well-intentioned code, Hoffman said, is full of rocks upon which the ship of good design can be dashed. The easiest path through competing requirements never produces the best building, and that’s before neighbors have their say. With these blueprints, Bryan is giving would-be builders a map. “We want people in the neighborhood to have the tools to participate in the growth of their neighborhood, literally. All the people who walk around and say, ‘Somebody oughta.’ ” The people for whom navigating the code and hiring an architect might be too much. The designs are right here.

    Bryan developers are still welcome to go the conventional route. “All we’re saying is: If you want an expedited permit and a free design, this is how we’d like you to do it.” Does it sound like a cookie-cutter design? It is. But it’s quick and it’s handsome. You can have your cookie and eat it too.”

  • Julienz says:

    Could I suggest you add a “recent comments” tab to your site? Isabella’s comment of 6 December was really important but not easy to find.

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