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A campaign for live-able rental housing

August 9, 2010

This great post from Jumbo Empanadas encouraged me to post about something political, even though I usually avoid politics on this blog. However, this blog is trying to reach NZ students, who are usually renting badly insulated houses with poor heating facilities (if any), yet living in a (%$#&ing) freezing country where in winter, below-zero temperatures are a regular occurrence. There is currently a campaign to get the government to set minimum standards that make houses actually worth paying for. I support this for several reasons:

  1. No one should have to pay for a roof over their head if it doesn’t actually prevent them from two of the most important factors that distinguish outside from inside – I’m talking about the cold and rain, or dampness. In some cases the mould that results is so toxic to inhabitants that they’d probably be better off sleeping outside anyway!
  2. Landlords don’t have to live in their rental properties, and therefore there is very little incentive for them to provide properly insulated houses. In Dunedin, students often have to pay through the roof for shoddy housing because a few owners control the entire rental property market (there are plenty of other problems with this but I won’t go into them here). Setting legally binding  minimum requirements for insulation is the only way to ensure that all houses will comply, and all houses should!
  3. Students don’t have much choice when it comes to renting, as they are obviously not usually in a position to buy a house and retrofit it themselves.

The bill is viewable on line for in depth scrutiny if you’re skeptical. While it makes sense from the perspective of energy efficiency, to me it’s about basic rights.

Here is an excerpt from a speech given in parliament that touched on the significance of the issue:

“Of the 1.5 million homes in New Zealand, more than 460,000 are rentals. These are generally the coldest and the least efficient of our housing stock. Our rentals are cold, old, uninsulated, damp, and mouldy, and they are expensive to rent. They are expensive to heat, with more than one-quarter of Kiwis spending more than 10 percent of their weekly income on heating. At the moment tenants—be they students, grandparents, or the poor—are suffering the heating costs, the housing costs, and the costs in general of our substandard housing…50 people a day are sick in hospital as a result of our housing.”

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