Wellington Welcomes Health-homes Bill

25 October 2013

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown has welcomed the ideas behind a private member’s bill aims to set compulsory minimum heating and insulation standards for rental housing across the country.

Labour MP Phil Twyford's Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill was drawn from the Parliamentary ballot yesterday. 

The Bill aims to legislate that every rental home in New Zealand meets minimum standards of heating and insulation.

Mayor Wade-Brown last month launched a proposal for a ‘warrant of fitness’ scheme that would grade the warmth and insulation of rental housing in the Capital – with the intention of encouraging landlords to upgrade housing to more healthy levels.

Today she said she would be “more than happy” if her proposal is overtaken by legislation arising from Mr Twyford’s Bill.

“New Zealand has some of the coldest and most unhealthy housing in the world. The dampness and low temperatures experienced in these homes leads to unnecessary sickness and suffering – and it wastes enormous amounts of energy and money as occupants struggle to keep these places warm.

“There is a definite need for improvements – and while I hope that Phil’s Bill will receive support, there are details to consider such whether the bill should consider broader issues, including earthquake safety.”

The Wellington City Council is investigating a range of possible options for a warrant of fitness-type tool to improve housing quality.

Options include a voluntary assessment tool, a compulsory assessment (disclosing the assessment but not forcing upgrade) or compulsory standards needing to be met by a certain time.

Councillor Paul Eagle, the Council’s Community, Sport and Recreation Chair, says protecting the health of Wellingtonians is critical. “Poor housing leads to poor health.” 

He says the world renowned research, He Kai Oranga, was undertaken by Wellington’s very own School of Medicine and reinforced the issue that overcrowding and damp, cold houses were a lethal combination.

The City Council has already made significant progress around making its own housing stock warm and dry. “We are six years into our $400 million programme – jointly funded with the Government – to upgrade the Council’s own rental housing stock. “It’s a huge programme but we are making great progress.” Says Cr. Eagle.

The Council’s Buildings Portfolio Leader, Councillor Iona Pannett, says care would have to be taken in the approach to any rules compelling owners of rental housing to make improvements. “We want to introduce rules in a measured way so landlords keep properties in the rental market. There are relatively inexpensive ways of insulating a house to make it warmer, that add value over the life of a rental property.”

Wellington City Council has engaged with a number of councils and organisations to progress healthy homes issues, including Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin councils, Otago University, the NZ Green Building Council, BRANZ, Beacon Pathway and the Centre for Sustainable Cities led by Prof Philippa Howden-Chapman.