The Childrens’ Commissioner established the grandly titled “Experts Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty” in March this year. This group has recently produced its first report which included a number of proposals that the group claimed were “ambitious, but they are also realistic, cost-effective, based on evidence, and take into account New Zealand's economic and fiscal context”.
One of those proposals was regulation of rental housing quality. Their proposal is to “ensure all rental housing (both social and private sector) meet minimum health and safety standards, according to an agreed Warrant of Fitness, such as the Healthy Housing Index. These standards should be monitored and effectively enforced, and gradually increased over time”.
According to the report, a key reason for the WOF proposal is that “a significant proportion of the rental stock, especially the private rental stock, is of low quality, uninsulated, and poorly maintained.”
The report used a 2010 BRANZ survey of just 108 rental properties throughout NZ to make their claims. This report said that “generally rental houses were in worse condition overall than owner occupied housing”. However this is not surprising, as NZ tenants tend to prefer lower quality housing than higher rental payments.
The BRANZ survey also said that a “slightly higher proportion of rentals than owner occupied houses had full ceiling and floor insulation and more had ceiling insulation over 100mm thick.” In addition, 80% of tenants in the BRANZ study said that there rental property was in good condition.
This is hardly clear evidence that the rental stock in New Zealand is of low quality, uninsulated and poorly maintained.
Media reports also suggested that only 5% of rental properties in NZ were insulated, a figure that appeared to be very low. The NZPIF undertook it’s own survey of rental property to establish the merit of this claim.
As I write this column there were 852 respondents to this survey representing 6,115 rental properties. Of these properties, 5,031 or 82.3% were insulated. Of those properties that could have ceiling insulation, 85% did. Of the properties that could have underfloor insulation, 53% did.
The rental properties were also well heated. 78.7% of all rental properties in the survey had some form of heating supplied with the property. The remaining 21.3% would still have had power, giving the tenants the opportunity to provide the heating source of their choice and take it with them when they left the rental property.
The three highest forms of heating supplied with rental properties were heatpumps at 32.9%, energy efficient wood burners at 20.1% and electric heaters at 16.9%.
The information from our survey and the BRANZ report would suggest that rental properties in New Zealand are well insulated and that this is not the sound or researched reason for introducing a Warrant of Fitness onto rental property that they claim.
We have sent a copy of our study to the Ministers of Housing and Social Development, plus the Prime Minister who indicated that rental property would be regulated to insulate their property if they didn’t choose to do so.