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Doctors welcome rules making insulation the norm in rentals

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) is welcoming new insulation rules for rental properties which come into effect today.

“Installing insulation in a house can have a 6:1 cost benefit ratio for the very young and the very old – these people are our most vulnerable, and they spend the most time indoors,” said Dr Jeff Brown, NZ President of the RACP and a paediatrician at Palmerston North Hospital.

“I see young children ending up in hospital suffering from respiratory conditions which could have been prevented it their homes were warm, dry and healthy.”

New Zealand has too many children growing up in rental homes with little or no insulation, he said.

“The World Health Organization recommends an indoor temperature of at least 18-21 degrees Celsius for optimal health, and this range has been endorsed by subsequent research into indoor environments.”

Evidence from public health and economic policy experts have shown that insulation can have a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of people and their families. A home that is easier to heat will result in reduced energy costs, as well as fewer days off from school or work.

“New Zealand research has shown that insulating houses will prevent at least one death every year, results in fewer visits to general practitioners and fewer prescription charges – we know it works and it has very real health benefits.”

The new rules are the first in a series of regulatory changes which aim to improve the quality of rental housing in New Zealand. These will include the introduction of an energy-efficient heat source, ventilation and moisture barrier, which will be mandatory from July 2021.

“The insulation rules coming into effect and the further changes ahead will go some way to improving the quality of New Zealand’s rental stock,” Dr Brown said. “This could inform a Warrant of Fitness-type certification for rental properties.”

Dr Brown acknowledged that the scale of the remedial work needed to bring housing stock up to the new Standards was significant but waiting even three years until full compliance was required was too long to wait.

“Thousands more kids will wind up in hospital – some with lifelong conditions like bronchiectasis – before the Standards are fully implemented in 2021.”

“The RACP wants healthy housing to be the norm for whānau in Aotearoa. The Healthy Homes Standards are a strong signal that it is a priority for this government as well.”

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