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Housing WOF: Too little action, says industry expert

Housing WOF: Too little action, says industry expert

The government needs to be brave enough to take a WOF strategy by the scruff of the throat”

Yesterday the government announced they would not be implementing the debated Warrant of Fitness (WOF) for rental homes, instead announcing a ‘watered-down’ version, with all rental properties requiring smoke alarms to be installed by July next year and to be insulated by July 2019.

Dave Wilson of Jennian Homes says this is not good enough. “Frankly, it equates to the proverbial ‘putting lipstick on the pig’. It gives you a nice feeling of having done something positive but doesn’t fix the underlying fundamental issue.”

Wilson says warm, dry homes are not achieved through insulation alone and radiant heating needs to be included to make a real difference. “Of course, all homes should have smoke alarms, but what about preventing the cause of the fires in the first place? Consider old, out of date and down right dangerous wiring! This announcement from the government feels more like an appeasement strategy than actually leading the way to safer, healthier homes for New Zealanders.”

Wilson also believes the new regulations are not coming in soon enough. “Why have four years been allowed for something as simple to implement as insulation? That’s four more cold winters, like we’re experiencing at the moment, for families to endure.

“A WOF has to be the answer for all houses before they are allowed to be rented out or sold. You cannot drive a car on our roads without a WOF approving it is fit to drive – the term is ‘roadworthy’. Yet, health and safety in our homes is a much bigger, much more expensive issue, but we’re forcing people into houses that are not fit for living or ‘lifeworthy’.”

He says it will actually cost more if a WOF scheme is not put in place. “Housing Minister Nick Smith is saying it is too expensive to implement a WOF scheme – it’s too expensive if we don’t! It is too easy to point to inspection and upfront costs as a barrier. How about equating it to the direct savings on ACC, hospitalisation, insurance pay-outs, doctors bills – let alone the indirect social costs.

“The argument that rents will inevitably rise is also not necessarily true. Rental prices are driven by the supply and demand equation. Landlords need to be compelled legally to provide safe, liveable homes – which in turn improves the quality and therefore the value, of their housing stock.

“And if we’re talking about saving money for the really important stuff – what about $26 million on a flag referendum? Would those in power like to go down in history as the government that changed the nation’s flag or would it be better to be remembered as the government that showed leadership and started the revolution to improve the quality of life for all New Zealanders?”

Wilson concludes: “Jennian Homes is a new homebuilder, so a WOF on older homes has no benefit to our business at all. But we have been building houses in New Zealand for 33 years and therefore have the experience, expertise and social responsibility to stand up and be vocal about this. We passionately believe the government should be brave enough to take a WOF strategy by the scruff of the throat and strategically work out the why and how, and stop hiding behind the why not and can’t.”


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