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Housing warrant of fitness little help for sick children

Housing warrant of fitness little help for sick children

Mike Butler

A housing warrant of fitness has been promoted as a way of preventing sickness among children in poverty. The attached report shows that such a regime would have little impact on health outcomes but would come at a considerable cost, driving up rents and forcing some property owners to sell.

By increasing rents and reducing the availability of rental housing, this misguided policy would hurt the very families that the advocacy groups purport to want to help.

I am a professional property investor and manager, have been working in the industry for 25 years, and have 17 years’ experience with building warrant of fitness compliance regimes.

The owners of the 411,000 rental properties in New Zealand have not been consulted in any meaningful way on this proposal to introduce a warrant of fitness on rental housing.

If they had been consulted, they could have pointed out why this proposal is doomed to fail:

1. Research papers provided by the Children’s Commissioner show that sickness results largely from overcrowding, failure to ventilate, and poor hygiene. Since all of these factors remain outside the scope of a WOF, such a regime would have little impact on wellness.

2. Use of un-flued portable gas heaters in 30 percent of New Zealand homes is linked to asthma, increased moisture in buildings, and risk of fire. These heaters are banned in some countries due to their serious health risks. The lack of any recommendation to restrict their use makes the WOF proposal look like a thinly veiled campaign against landlords.

3. Housing is already regulated – under the Building Act 2004 and, if rented, the Residential Tenancies Act, which already has detailed standards and penalties if these standards are breached.

4. The claimed $4.80 gain for every $1 spent is based on a dollar value put on a slight decrease in mortality in occupants of state houses that had been insulated. That data has been manipulated and spread over 30 years to get that apparent saving.

5. The main reason why housing, which has a power socket in every room into which a cheap portable electric heater may be plugged, is cold in winter, is that occupants don’t want to pay for the electricity, the price of which has doubled over the past 10 years.

Besides analysing research on housing, health, and heating, my report looks at the government’s work on a state house warrant of fitness, electricity prices, gas heaters, insulation standards, and includes the checklist that 94 percent of the best rental properties failed.

The report Rental property warrant of fitness a costly mistake may be read here: http://www.nzcpr.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/NZCPR-Housing-Warrant-of-Fitness-Report.pdf


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