Editorial: Housing conditions matter

By Dylan Thorne

8 comments


I've lived in my share of cold, damp homes in the past and know just how difficult it is to stay warm with no insulation.

My partner and I bought our first home in the deep south on impulse. It was a 1930s clinker brick home with polished floors and lots of character.

It was summer when we moved in and we enjoyed retreating inside when it got too hot. We longed for any form of heat when winter arrived. Our uninsulated dream house was a fridge and it was making us crook.

We found the heat from the two open fires went straight up the chimney and that running the heat pump was costing a fortune because the warm air it produced was flowing outside through gaps in the doors and windows.

We all suffered colds and had to wear extra clothes to stay warm. We learned a valuable lesson.

Today, we report on calls for a minimum standard for housing.

Research showing high rates of poverty-related child illnesses such as respiratory-related infections could be reduced by making houses drier and warmer prompted an expert group on child poverty to identify a minimum housing standards scheme as one of its six "immediate priorities".

About 7000 Western Bay homes were insulated as part of the Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart project since its July 2009 inception.

Nationally, only 28,000 homes insulated through the project were rentals, according to the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Under the project, 33 per cent of ceiling and floor insulation costs - up to $1300 - was provided to owners whose homes were built before 2000.

The scheme sounds like a good idea on paper but there are a few issues.

Merivale Community Centre services manager John Fletcher says many renters are still missing out and are reluctant to broach the subject of insulation with landlords because they fear having to pay for it with increased rent.

And Andrew King, president of the New Zealand Property Investors Federation, says many landlords find the Government's subsidised insulation scheme too expensive.

I support having a warrant of fitness for homes. We have a Warrant of Fitness for cars so why not have one for homes?

It makes sense that there should be a minimum standard of housing and that homes we live in should not be bad for our health.

The issues associated with the Heat Smart project need to be addressed to improve the living conditions of all New Zealanders.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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