People's Review report shows urgent policies needed

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) says that the People’s Review of Renting report released today by ActionStation and Renters United should be considered by Members of Parliament to be further evidence supporting the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill (No.2) into legislation.

The report provides a deeper look at the tragic reality for many renting in New Zealand, that houses are often not maintained to a standard that is healthy and safe, leading the way to prolonged illness among tenants, including many children.

Many of the 610 respondents who took part in the study were living in homes with children and most were likely to be on a lower than average income. A common theme among the public submissions was the low standard to which the houses are maintained, the inefficiency and cost for maintaining warmth in colder months, and worsened health problems, particularly where there are children involved. 70% of respondents said that their houses had no ceiling or floor insulation.

“We are reminded that this time two years ago, a toddler named Emma-Lita Bourne died with pneumonia attributed to the cold, damp state house she lived in. It is unacceptable to allow houses to become such health hazards for children,” says Professor Innes Asher, paediatrician and CPAG health spokesperson.

“Last year there were more than 40,000 admissions to hospital of children who have illnesses linked to poor housing and poverty, and this report proves that the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill (No.2) is a very necessary first step to reducing the tragic levels of such illnesses.”

“It is a very powerful and compelling body of evidence to support and confirm what we know to be a serious issue,” said Frank Hogan, CPAG housing spokesperson.

“It supports CPAG’s recommendation to make it compulsory for landlords to maintain their houses to minimum health and safety standards by urgently implementing a housing Warrant of Fitness (WOF).”

Many of the respondents to the study talked about having very little choice and power to decide where they could live, having to take a house regardless of the standard because it was within affordability reach or the only place they had progressed past application stage.

“As well as a WOF for all existing rental properties, Government should be building many more state homes and ensuring that families who have to live in private rentals are able to afford them,” says Hogan.

CPAG gladly supports the recommendations by ActionStation and Renters United to improve incomes, introduce a housing WOF and support tenant rights with long-term tenure security, restrictions on rent increases and the abolition of letting fees.

CPAG has released a series of policy priority papers outlining recommendations to improve New Zealand’s healthcare, welfare and housing systems.

Implementing these recommended policies will substantially reduce the worst child poverty and improve the lives of all low-income families with children, and meanwhile contribute to a reduction in hospital admissions of children with poverty-related illnesses.