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$20 billion cost of fixing country's homes


$20 billion cost of fixing country's homes less than 4% of their value

Investing $20 billion over the next decade to fix the country's unhealthy, uncomfortable and energy-wasting homes means spending just over 4% of their value.

The country's private-sector homes are worth $587 billion.

The New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development, in a major report resulting from a two-year $300,000 research project, says a million of the country's 1.6 million homes, however, are inadequately insulated and 45% are mouldy.

The research also indicates 26% of homes (410,000) could be making their occupants ill.

The Business Council - whose 73 member companies' annual sales of $59 million equate to 43% of gross domestic product in dollar terms - says, at an average cost of about $22,000 to bring an older typically smaller home up to standard, the country has at least a $20 billion infrastructure problem.

It will cost home occupants $4.75 billion in wasted energy over the next decade. And send 18,000 to hospital with respiratory illnesses and cost people 180,000 days off work each year.

Business Council Chief Executive Peter Neilson says a $2 billion-a-year investment to upgrade the housing stock over the next 10 years equates to less than 4% of the homes' value.

In addition, the country is building about $11 billion in new homes a year.

"The figures show the investment, which might sound big initially, is only a fraction of the value of the housing stock. It's an investment well worth making.

"If all homes were made comfortable, warm and energy and water efficient, there will be an economic gain of more than $500 million, plus savings in water infrastructure costs, cuts in the health bills, and social gains - like people staying in the same rental properties for longer. Which means their children don't move school as often. They also won't suffer from illness and its impact on the family budget and their education and other activities.

"The country doesn't have an agreed plan to upgrade our housing stock - what solutions are needed, which homes should go first, how it will be paid for and by when," Mr Neilson says.

"We need that plan put in place by agreement between the Government and building sector during the next year. It could easily form part of the economic stimulus package, as it has in the United Kingdom. The building, health and other sectors would welcome that. The investment is well worth making."

The Business Council's research reports, "Better Performing Homes for New Zealanders - Making It Happen", and the"2008 New Zealand Housing Survey" are available at http://www.nzbcsd.org.nz/housing/content.asp?id=446

ENDS

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