A plan to address a significant housing shortage in Auckland is running way ahead of schedule, the New Zealand government claims.

Releasing the report into the first year of the Auckland Housing Accord – an agreement between the government and the Auckland Council on a strategy to beef up housing supply by freeing up available land and speeding up approval times for new housing developments – New Zealand Housing Minster Nick Smith said the number of new sections created and new dwellings consented throughout the city during the first year of the life of the accord came in at 11,600.

That is more than 20 percent above the target of 9,000, as around 5,523 new residential sections were created and consents were issued for around 7,366 new homes, the highest annual total on record for the past eight years.

Set up in October last year in response to a growing housing shortage and increasing frustration about the time taken to get new developments approved and into construction, the Accord enabled the creation of Special Housing Areas which would be the subject of a fast-tracked approval regime.

That shortage, which the government puts at around 20,000 homes or around three times the city’s annual building levels, has seen house prices shoot up by 14.8 per cent and 7.9 per cent over the past two years respectively and the city’s level of housing affordability (already worse than either of the other major cities) deteriorate by 8.3 per cent over the past year.

Smith said the accord has accelerated the city’s delivery with respect to new housing.

“We have moved quickly to establish the Special Housing Areas, where construction is now underway at full steam,” he said. “We have got diggers on the ground at sites across Auckland and there is huge potential in the pipeline.”

Smith acknowledged that delivering on yet more challenging targets of 13,000 and 17,000 new sections and consents during year’s two and three of the plan would be challenging, but added that this was always intended to be the case.

“The second and third year targets remain ambitious, but they were designed to stretch us. They reinforce the need for the Government and Auckland Council to keep our foot on the accelerator,” he said.

The release of the report comes as the latest Ministry of Business and Innovation Housing and Construction Quarterly report shows that with the Christchurch rebuild now in full swing, construction activity throughout the country has ramped up. The annual value of work put in place in the residential sector is up by nearly one third compared with the previous year and activity on non-residential building up by around seven per cent.

While that is a positive, however, the increased level of activity has not yet been sufficient to alleviate a situation of considerable housing need as the number of people on social housing waiting lists currently sits at ten year highs and is more than double its most recent low achieved in 2012.