Every Child's Right to a Healthy Home

Today at 5:30pm Every Child Counts and the Child Poverty Action Group are hosting a housing forum, asking political parties what they will do to improve access to healthy, affordable housing.

The housing crisis is reaching devastating proportions in New Zealand, and while Government has increased its expenditure on emergency housing grants and transitional housing spaces, this is only a temporary solution to a much bigger problem - families are living in substandard housing that is causing alarming rates of illness, particularly among young children, and many do not have a home at all.

The Every Child Counts coalition is calling for all political parties to commit to ensuring all children in Aotearoa New Zealand live in healthy, warm homes.

The Every Child Counts (ECC) coalition is made up of UNICEF, Barnardos, Save the Children, Plunket and Mana Ririki. ECC along with the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), Public Health Association of New Zealand, Save our Schools, Renters United, ActionStation, United Community Action Network (UCAN NZ) and Action for Children and Youth Aotearoa (ACYA).

Lisa Woods, Executive Officer for the Every Child Counts coalition, says that for the wellbeing of all children, every political party must commit to a rental warrant of fitness (WOF) and the development of a national housing strategy.

Research clearly shows the devastating impact poor housing has on child health and wellbeing. In New Zealand there are about 40,000 hospital admissions of children every year with preventable illnesses that have links to poverty and unhealthy housing.

"There are very serious humanitarian considerations here, as well as economic consequences,” says Woods.

A recent report from the Building Research Association of New Zealand (BRANZ) demonstrated that overall rental housing is of poorer quality than owner-occupied housing. The BRANZ 2015 House Condition Survey showed that 51% of rented houses and 66% of owner-occupied ones were in good or excellent condition. This means that 49% of rented houses were in poor condition.

"This is utterly unacceptable,” says Woods.

“But it’s not problem that needs to stick around - there are policy solutions readily available. A compulsory WOF for all rented properties, including state homes, would guarantee decent quality housing, and reduce the risk of illness among children.

“We are calling for all parties to commit to a national housing plan.

“This  is critical to pull together different threads, identify gaps, and ensure accountability. Too often there has been a piecemeal approach to housing solutions, when we know from research that meaningful change will only come from comprehensive action across a range of areas,” says Woods.

“The strategy needs to specifically address the needs of children and should support the Māori Housing Strategy - He Whare Āhuru He Oranga Tāngata. Community Housing Aotearoa's document: "Our Place" provides a strong basis for developing a strategy.

“Without an overarching plan, individual policies, no matter how positive, will not add up to the fundamental change we need to see.

"Improving housing quality is one piece of the puzzle - there are many other parts to improving access to safe, affordable, healthy housing, including addressing ways to reduce fuel poverty and ensuring families have adequate incomes.”