Tenancies War spokesperson Mike Butler
Barfoot & Thompson has co-signed a letter with the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation, the Hutt Valley District Health Board, Community Housing Aotearoa, NZ Green Building Council, and university researchers, which urges National Party leader Judith Collins to back the standards.
The move came after widespread reports that, if elected, the National Party wants to roll back the Government’s new Healthy Homes standards and tenancy law reforms.
In the letter, Barfoot & Thompson and the other signatories say that backing the standards would ensure more New Zealanders live in warm, dry, healthier homes.
“Scrapping, rather than backing, the healthy homes standards would mean, in future years, more children suffering from respiratory diseases, higher household bills for many New Zealanders, and higher emissions of climate change pollution,” they say.
“Improving unhealthy New Zealand homes would save the economy millions every year. Scrapping the healthy homes standards would leave Kiwi taxpayers to otherwise pick up this multi-million-dollar bill.”
For that reason, backing the standards would be good news for the economy, for taxpayers, and for New Zealand's international obligations, they say.
But the letter has not gone down well with some landlords, with Stop the War on Tenancies spokesperson Mike Butler describing it as naïve.
Butler says the letter-writers should provide evidence that shows implementing the standards in rental properties will keep the 700,000 New Zealanders with respiratory disease out of hospital.
He points out that people with respiratory disease live in owner-occupied homes as well as rental properties and there are 1.1 million of those that are not required to meet the standards.
Butler believes the standards will have little real impact and will simply increase the costs involved with rental property.
“Barfoot’s support for the costly and unnecessary compliance standards is actually deepening a problem for both owners and their tenants who end up having to foot the bill.”
NZ Property Investors Federation president Andrew King takes a different stance. He says that Barfoot & Thompson’s position probably represents the view of most rental property owners.
“We want our rental properties to be warm, dry and performing well. We want our tenants to be living in good conditions. As such we support most of the requirements in the standards.
“But we don’t agree that there are noticeable benefits in topping up the insulation to current standards in rental properties that are already insulated and having heat pumps in every single rental property.”
He says the issues the standards are trying to address are more complex than the standards assume, with tenant income being a factor – which is why the NZPIF has always backed the idea of the Winter energy payment.
That means the NZPIF agrees with the National Party that some of the standards should be revisited, but they don’t agree that all the standards should simply be removed.
King adds that the National Party’s stance on his particular issue seems to have been misinterpreted by many.
This does appear to be the case. National Party housing spokesperson Jacqui Dean says that, if elected, they won’t be repealing all of the recent changes made to rental standards.
“The ones relating to insulation will be kept and we don’t see a need to make any other immediate changes in this area.
“But we will remove those regulations that cause an unnecessary burden and drive up the cost of rents, such as the regulations prescribing heating output on qualifying heaters that require advanced mathematics to interpret.”
She says National wants tenants to live in warm, dry homes but putting too much regulation, too quickly on landlords without any incentives only leaves fewer people willing to be landlords.
“All that will happen is rentals become even more expensive, or landlords will sell up and there will be fewer places to rent.”
Comment: Furore over Healthy Homes story misleading
Compliance statement deadline extended