Landlords head for a roasting

By Susan Edmunds

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Things could be about to get hot in the house for errant landlords, with Prime Minister John Key warning he may wield a stick if the carrot doesn't encourage them to better insulate the houses they own.


Key's message comes as the Herald on Sunday continues its campaign to get more homes insulated, either by extending government funding schemes or through legislation in problem areas.


Housing Minister Phil Heatley has scheduled a meeting this coming week with Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei to discuss extending funding for the Warm Up New Zealand scheme, which is due to run out in 2014 as the $360 million put aside is spent.


As well, more than $80 million has been contributed by agencies to retrofit homes in the past three years.


The government scheme was started in 2009 and offers a 33 per cent subsidy on the cost of insulation - up to $1300, or a 60 per cent subsidy for Community Services Cardholders. Energy and Efficiency Conservation Authority spokeswoman Jane O'Loughlin said many low-income households had paid little or nothing for their insulation because of the injection of funds from other bodies.


"So far since 2009, around $80 million has been contributed by around 70 organisations."


In its latest annual report, at present being drafted, EECA thanks more than 60 organisations for providing $20 million over the past financial year. These include energy trusts, councils, district health boards, commercial businesses and charitable community trusts.


EECA chief executive Mike Underhill said third-party participation was one of the successes of the programme and more low-income homes had been retrofitted than had been expected.


"When it started, the target was 60,000 low-income and 120,000 middle-income families. But we've found a huge amount of demand for low-income homes."


He said 105,000 had been done, a 70 per cent increase on the target.


O'Loughlin said one of the most prominent third-party funders was the ASB Community Trust, which has topped up the Warm Up NZ scheme to fully fund or mostly fund insulation retrofits for 8000 homes.


The trust was joint-funding retrofits in 2007/08, before Warm Up NZ began. Including that period, it has funded more than 10,000 retrofits, in conjunction with EECA, worth about $12 million.


Trust chief executive Jennifer Gill said the focus was purely on extremely low-income families. Over recent years, it had dealt only with Northland because of the number of needy families in the region.


She supported Green Party efforts to continue the Warm Up NZ scheme beyond 2014. "Our money attracts the government subsidy, it's an ideal way to work because you're in partnership with a highly professional organisation."


In Wellington, Sustainability Trust runs a programme called Warm Fuzzies, which helps improve the homes of people referred by community outreach nurses. There have been 67 referrals over the past year.


Damp smell vanquished


Wilson Toma had put up with a strong smell of damp in his Miramar home for about eight years. Visitors would comment on it and he, his wife Jouliat Bay and his elderly mother Betshwa Barkho struggled with respiratory illnesses made worse by mould.


He was referred to the Warm Fuzzies scheme this year because of his asthma and his wife's eczema. His mother, 84, has heart disease. Underfloor insulation, draught stripping and a vapour barrier were put in for a cost of just under $1000 to the landlord.


A mould specialist was called in. Toma cleaned up the mould himself and painted the bedroom.


Warm Fuzzies spokeswoman Willemijn Vermaat said it had made the property a lot drier and would help keep the house in better condition.

- Hamilton News

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