Warming up our homes

Column Articles
Tuesday, July 14, 2015

With temperatures plummeting recently, many Kiwis will be wondering what they can do to stay warm. It’s no secret many New Zealand homes, particularly rental properties, are not well insulated.

To bring more homes up to standard, the Government is asking landlords to provide underfloor and ceiling insulation in 180,000 rental properties across the country.

This will mean less hospital patients with circulatory and respiratory illnesses, and less money spent on medication. It will also mean New Zealanders take fewer sick days.

It is also worrying to note an estimated 120,000 rental properties currently do not have working smoke alarms. The Government is requiring smoke alarms to be installed in all tenanted properties from 1 July next year.

This is expected to save three lives a year.

Some people have asked why we don’t require more of landlords. This is because landlords will almost certainly pass the cost of heavy-handed regulations on to their tenants through rent increases.

If a property requires a smoke alarm, as well as ceiling and floor insulation, we would expect the rent to go up by $3.20 per week. That cost is more than outweighed by the benefits of a home being warmer and safer, and cheaper power and medical bills.

Other issues like leaky roofs, excessive dampness and unsafe wiring are already covered by existing regulations. They just need to be enforced. As part of these changes we’ll be toughening up on that.

The Government is taking the first step by requiring underfloor and ceiling insulation in heavily subsidised social housing by 1 July next year.

Other rental housing, including boarding houses, will be required to be insulated from 1 July 2019. Exceptions will be made for houses in which it is physically impractical to do so.

This is the logical next step to follow Government initiatives Warm Up New Zealand Healthy Homes and Heat Smart, which have insulated 280,000 homes.

Abandoned rental properties are also part of these changes because every abandoned house that stands empty is a place another family could move in to.  Instead of the current six weeks, there will be a new 10-day process to get new tenants in where the current tenant has no intention of returning.

These are practical and cost effective ways to improve the lives and health of local Bay of Plenty families.