News from VUWSA
The Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association today hosted Wellington City Council Mayor Celia Wade-Brown at Victoria University to announce support for a rental warrant of fitness for Wellington, and collaboration between Wade-Brown and the Association.
The Healthy Homes Launch, attended by about 160 students, health and housing researcher from the University of Otago Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman, community group Every Child Counts, and current councillors and candidates; heard from President Rory McCourt on the need for minimum housing standards in the region.
“Most properties are fine, and most landlords are great. We’re concerned about the small, but significant minority; the real shockers out there. Currently a home or flat can be rented without insulation, double glazing or adequate ventilation. And unbelievably, there is no minimum room temperature for a property” said McCourt.
“This is not a wish list. It’s not luxury. It’s the basics. And it’s what any renter should be guaranteed in a first-world country”
“We’ve been calling for local leadership on minimum housing standards for some time now. We can’t rely on the National-led Government to deliver standards any time soon, so we’re thrilled Celia has come to the table to provide that leadership, and we are looking forward to working with her and her team to develop a local bill to give the Wellington City Council the power to set the minimums”
“We see the cost of poor quality housing every day, as students queue for the doctor, get sick and fail courses, and lose thousands of work hours at part-time jobs in Wellington’s businesses” said McCourt.
McCourt said guaranteed quality housing in the capital would be significant for students.
Benefits of warmer, drier housing included energy efficiency gains, reduced power bills for students and families, and reduced risk of respiratory illnesses and rheumatic fever. McCourt said hoped the Warm Up New Zealand: Healthy Homes subsidy, along with subsidies from community organisations like the Sustainability Trust, would help to reduce the upgrade costs faced by landlords below the minimum standard.
“No longer will students live in fear of the mildew in their kitchen, or the mould in their bathroom. That’s got to be good for Wellington!” he concluded.
News from Salient
The Victoria University Students Association has a plan that could be a local anaesthetic to students’ housing pains. Today’s VUWSA annual meeting is to be followed by a Housing Forum, where the association will announce plans for a ‘rental warrant of fitness’ local Bill. The Bill would set up a warrant-of-fitness scheme for rental properties, enforcing a minimum standard for rental properties throughout Wellington by way of Government legislation.
The Housing Forum is aimed at hearing students’ stories on the quality and price of accommodation in Wellington. Attending the Forum will be councillors including Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, and other community groups who will speak on some of the issues facing students living in substandard housing conditions. VUWSA President Rory McCourt hopes students will bring their own ideas to the forum, stating the proposed local Bill is just “one aspect of a solution to the housing problem”.
While VUWSA hopes a local Bill will have wide support among Wellington City Council councillors, it is as yet unclear whether this will be the case. In March, VUWSA sought a bylaw to introduce minimum rental-housing standards, with Wellington City Councillor Iona Pannett stating at the time that regulation for minimum housing standards would be best brought in at the national level.
The Bill’s success may also depend on the outcome of October’s mayoral election. While Mayor Celia Wade-Brown is supportive of the idea, there is no guarantee a new mayor would be, should Wade-Brown fail to be re-elected. However, the Bill’s success is not entirely dependent on the views of the Mayor, as the Council votes as a whole. VUWSA has talked to “most councillors”, according to McCourt, “most” of whom are in support of the Bill and suggest a majority will be reached on Council.
However councillor and mayoral candidate John Morrison did not return Salient’s calls.
The New Zealand Property Investors’ Federation has previously stated warrants of fitness are “not the solution to unhealthy homes”, and one landlord spoken to by Salient last week was sceptical of the proposed Bill. “Legislation to improve housing would have to make allowances to cover more of my expenses, to be honest. Take insulation costs for example—they’re not tax-deductible. Students know that having a cold flat is part-and-parcel of the whole experience.”
Read the complete Salient report here