Tim Gummer

For one Auckland cohousing project the the “high cost of free parking” has is particularly tangible.

For many of us, Cohaus has come to represent the hope of Auckland urban cohousing. This architecturally well-represented group, having acquired a Grey Lynn site, has found itself betrayed by the very institutions which – on a high level policy level at least – should have their back.

Cohaus’ consent has been opposed by Auckland Council on the advice of Auckland Transport. Because… parking.

Let’s back up a bit here.

Co-who?

Cohaus has been some years in preparation. This community proposes 19 units within two (two and three level) buildings on Surrey Crescent, arranged around a north-facing courtyard.

Shared are guest bedroom, common room, storage, laundry, bike parking, cars and car parking. That parking. Cohaus plans at 30 cycle and 9 car parks, with two of the latter for community owned carshare.

A poster child project

Cohaus’ plans spectacularly realise cohousing’s special potential to reduce car dependency through shared transport facilities, and the sustainable sensibilities of many cohousers. And given Grey Lynn’s troubled cycleway rollout, you might well expect Auckland Transport would be delighted to be able to point to a poster child example of the kind of low car-dependency it has come out swinging for in the last year.

Cohaus rendering - street

[Concept Rendering from Cohaus] 

Unfortunately Cohaus’ resource consent rebuff has shown that the memo has yet to filter through to the darker corners of city hall.

Because parking

Cohaus’ traffic assessment (by Flow) was reviewed by SCON, consultants for Council, under this advice from Auckland Transport  “the additional demand from the Cohaus development might not have a noticeable effect but that doesn’t mean it’s right to knowingly add to the problem”.

Flow determined that Cohaus will add one on-street car park requirement. SCON’s take is six.

Compared with most developments, Cohaus by dint of it's constinency alone, will have a light footprint:  members already have minimal car-dependency, being active cycling and public transport users. That's before considering designed-in car minimisation. So the Cohaus/Flow assessment was far from hypothetical.

But, whatever… Auckland Transport and SCON have simply assumed that Council should enshrine on-street parking exclusively for one group of residents over another.

 

Cohaus Site Plan

Notwithstanding the clear priorities articulated by chair Lester Levy and that AT has been more than happy to reduce on street parking elsewhere, this advice, much like january’s momentarily disappearing active transport budget, this bum note shows an institution still unable to sing from the same hymnsheet.

Cohaus have overcome immense barriers to get as far as they have. Meanwhile, the community is covering $700 a day in finance.

Co-founder Thom Gill has reflected that the demise of Council's Special Housing Office has not served projects like Cohaus well. Prior to  Auckland's Unitary plan, the Office provided a pool of design expertise which could engage with atypical housing models.  But of course even that enlightened expertise was light years from the institutionalised incentives for collaborative housing found in Europe, where Baugruppen and Cohousing projects are already identified as a social good from the get go. 

We’re not alone

This is not a new situation for antipodean collaborative housing: Melbourne’s second zero car parking Nightingale development, opposite their award-winning Commons apartments suffered a similar setback from the VCAT. Fortunately good sense prevailed.

We have to hope that sense will win out here too. And now, just a week after Council has cheerfully joined in Parking Day, the final consent decision will be made at an independent hearings panel, 26-28 September.

But the stakes are high - this hearing is final, with no avenue for appeal.

Hearing commissioners Dr Lee Beattie, Heike Lutz, and Pamela Peters should not be lobbied, though there is no harm in highlighting this systemic failure to council or AT people. The hearing is at public Grey Lynn Library Hall.


See more at Greater Auckland or read the full Auckland Council report [PDF, 63MB]


Update

(And then, suddenly)