The call for a warrant of fitness for tenanted houses appears to be increasing. Should this happen the first ones to be checked for safety, insulation and general maintenance should be Housing New Zealand stock.
It is reported that about 75 per cent of these houses are in shoddy repair. Whatever happened to the annual inspections?
Leaky, cold and damp houses that the Minister of Housing and bosses at Housing New Zealand wouldn't want members of their families living in. Years of neglect and deferred repairs and maintenance have come home to roost.
There are thousands of houses in New Zealand of similar vintage, privately owned. And the owners take pride in keeping them well maintained. They haven't been left to deteriorate. The owners know that a house is one of their main assets. You look after this substantial asset in the hope that it will maintain or increase in value. Why wouldn't the government, as owner on behalf of the New Zealand taxpayer, do the same?
Housing New Zealand houses were paid for by the taxpayer and we should have insisted they be kept in good condition. At least to a reasonable standard. Houses don't have to be new but they should at least be places where a family's health is not compromised, especially children.
By all means bring in a warrant of fitness for tenanted houses. Both government and private landlord. Tenants pay to live in homes that should meet their needs. There is nothing over the top in wanting a warm, safe and structurally sound house.
And any warrant of fitness inspection should be carried out by an independent organisation. One that won't be at risk of being captured by the owner or government agency attempting to influence what the report might say.
We all know that at this time of the year those with respiratory problems are more at risk. Asthma and flu cases cause hospitals to full up. We have been told to take these illnesses seriously as in some cases death can result.
Which makes the two deaths of children living in Housing New Zealand houses all the more sad. The coroner said in the case of two year old Emma - Lita Bourne who died last year that, while it is difficult to say if her death was caused by the run down condition of the house, it certainly would have contributed to her severe bronchopneumonia problem.
There will be those who ask why the parents didn't try to do more. Why didn't they jump up and down to Housing New Zealand?
Try that and see how far it gets you. When you are already on a waiting list hoping to be moved to a more suitable house, already made repeat requests for insulation and to have the windows and doors that don't close properly fixed to keep the cold out. You won't dare make a fuss. You're likely to get sent to the back of the waiting list.
You will keep quiet and keep waiting in the hope that someone somewhere will realise how serious your housing situation is.
I have been a tenant and landlord. There are responsibilities on both sides. Sometimes as a landlord, even with the best checking, you can still be let down. Thankfully this hasn't happened often with my properties. And I would never tenant a property I wasn't prepared to live in myself.
I undertake the ground maintenance because while tenants keep the house in tidy condition most don't care much for ground maintenance.
This year my tenant asked if I would consider installing a new wood burner. She has a son with a respiratory problem. I hadn't anticipated this request but the tenant is very particular in the house and enjoys living there.
The house had an open fire and most of the heat went straight up the chimney. The open fire used far more wood too than an efficient wood burner. I wouldn't want, in any way, to increase the health risk to the young boy over winter.
And there are always increased health costs for the family. Of course I didn't hesitate. The lives of all children are precious whether they live in a tenanted house or a house their parents own. Their young lives are put at risk by mouldy, damp and poorly insulated houses. Someone should tell Housing New Zealand that.
-Merepeka lives in Rotorua. She writes, speaks and broadcasts to thwart the spread of political correctness.