Debate on Healthy Homes bill

Andrew Little’s Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill passed it’s first vote in parliament last night 61 to 60, thanks to the deciding vote of Peter Dunne.

But Dunne said that nothing should be taken for granted on United Future’s position on the bill.

Although UnitedFuture today voted in favour of the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill, allowing it to be sent to Select Committee.  UnitedFuture leader, Peter Dunne, says a rethink is needed when it comes to the issue of ensuring healthy homes and healthy families.

In supporting this Bill to Select Committee, Mr Dunne said that his support is qualified.

“This Bill must do more to address how to provide support to those most in need to ensure them a healthy home that is also an affordable one.  This now puts the ball firmly in the Government’s court to respond with detailed policy of its own in this area.

“United Future’s position on this Bill is dependent on the Government’s response and nothing should be taken for granted at this stage”, said Mr Dunne.

This indicates that Dunne has allowed the bill to proceed but wants to now see what the Government might do about it. Dunne said that a rethink was necessary.

Although UnitedFuture today voted in favour of the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill, allowing it to be sent to Select Committee.  UnitedFuture leader, Peter Dunne, says a rethink is needed when it comes to the issue of ensuring healthy homes and healthy families.

“It’s a basic good to have a warm and safe place to call home, but when it comes to the Government setting bottom-lines for rentals, the key issue is affordability and that’s what I’m calling on the select committee to consider”.

The Bill requires the development of a minimum standard of heating, insulation, draught stops ventilation and temperature in all rental properties in New Zealand, but it does not provide any relief for the rising costs that will likely be passed on to renters.

“It’s a noble cause to want to increase housing standards but what we need to focus on is increasing the ability of renters and landlords to be able to access affordable ways of heating and future-proofing their houses.

“It’s all very well to require a method of heating, but that doesn’t mean much if you can’t afford the increased cost of electricity”, Mr Dunne said.

UnitedFuture policy does not see government mandate as the solution to housing standards and the Party would rather see the Government set aside funding to provide landlords and renters access to technology and resource to future-proof their homes and make them warmer and more affordable.

In his speech introducing his bill Little pointed out:

But it is interesting that the Commissioner for Children had this to say in relation to a Budget promise made a few years ago by this Government that undertook to make homes healthy again.

He said that the Government’s bill that was currently going through this Parliament failed to meet that promise.

So between the two bills we might end up with something better, although it won’t be easy to ensure homes are healthier in practical and workable ways.

“That undertook to make homes healthy again” is an odd statement from Little. Newer houses are generally much healthier than older houses, insulation has improved substantially and heating options are cleaner and cheaper to run with the big uptake of heat pumps.

Before the first reading Minister of Housing Nick Smith was critical of the time frame in the Bill in a Beehive media release:

Little detail in Labour bill leaves Govt cold

Labour’s so-called Healthy Homes Bill is lacking in detail, slow in timing and unworkable in practise, Building and Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith says.

“The surprising flaw in Mr Little’s Bill is that it has a timetable four years slower for insulating rental properties than the Government’s Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill. Mr Little’s Bill provides for 12 months before it comes into effect, six months for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to develop an insulating standard and then five years for compliance.

“Assuming the Bill went through a normal select committee process of six months, this works out at July 2023. The Government requires compliance by July 2019.”

He also points out a potentially significant flaw:

“This Bill is unworkable in requiring a landlord to maintain all rental property at a specified minimum indoor temperature – although it does not actually state what the temperature is.”

You can lead a tenant to a well insulated home with good heating options but you can’t make them use their heaters, leave their doors and windows closed, pull their curtains and ventilate the house so it doesn’t get too damp.

“Mr Little’s Bill is too little too late. It is a poor substitute for the Government’s detailed and practical measures that will make New Zealand rental properties warmer, dryer and safer,” Dr Smith concluded.

Dunne’s vote and his challenge to the Government has put pressure on Smith to do better with his plans to help make more homes healthier. That’s smart MMP at work.

Little’s introduction of the bill: Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill introduced

 

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8 Comments

  1. David

     /  5th May 2016

    “You can lead a tenant to a well insulated home with good heating options but you can’t make them use their heaters, leave their doors and windows closed, pull their curtains and ventilate the house so it doesn’t get too damp.”

    Clearly landlords will need to invest into fully automated climate controls and operate remotely so that tenants can’t turn them off.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  5th May 2016

      Just install floor and ceiling vents so there is always a slow flow through.

      Reply
    • Pantsdownbrown

       /  5th May 2016

      Fully automated tenants may be easier to achieve…

      Reply
  2. Brown

     /  5th May 2016

    So now the govt will dictate how warm you like your house. Madness. Its time to dump the tenancy tribunal as well now that a bond refund is virtually obligatory.

    Reply
  3. Zedd

     /  5th May 2016

    IF you listened to the debate.. Labour & Greens were saying that putting heating into rental properties may cost money upfront, BUT it could well save the Govt. $millions on health care costs; sick people from living in : damp, cold & mouldy houses :/

    It was good to see it pass first reading.. at least it will be debated now, even if the support from Dunne is not guaranteed through to 3rd reading

    btw; It was interesting to see David Seymour vote against A. Ngaro’s ‘mbrs bill’ (just prior).. surprising the Nats whipping boy too ?

    Reply
    • Brown

       /  5th May 2016

      The worst houses I see are the old Housing NZ stock so maybe the govt should fix theirs first.

      Reply
  4. Pantsdownbrown

     /  5th May 2016

    Zedd: “BUT it could”

    Could, would, should, perhaps, nah.

    Reply

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