Nurses hope landlords get ‘cracking’ to make homes warmer before next winter following the passing of the Healthy Homes Guarantees bill, says nurses’ union NZNO.
The Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill was passed late last week – the second major law to be passed by the new Government – and will come into effect in 2019. The law enables the Government to set standards for rental housing quality including heating, insulation, ventilation, draught stopping, drainage and moisture.
Memo Musa, chief executive of the New Zealand Nurses’ Organisation, said NZNO congratulated the government on the passing of the bill as it was well documented that poor housing took its toll on the health of children in particular.
Preventable diseases such as skin infections, rickets and respiratory diseases should not be a feature for any child growing up in Aotearoa,” he said with access to decent housing and healthcare being basic human rights.
“The high cost of heating a home that is almost impossible to keep warm can also leave families that are renting in poverty, and this in turn leads to children becoming malnourished and ultimately presenting to nurses for care.
“The whole notion of a rental warrant of fitness is a good way forward. This will help to keep people out of hospital and in their communities living healthy lives,” said Musa. He said the 2017 winter saw an increase in the numbers of people coming into emergency departments over previous years.
“Nurses hope that landlords will get cracking and get their houses sufficiently insulated and ventilated before next winter and not wait until it is illegal not to in 2019,” he said.
Housing Minister Phil Twyford, after the passing of the bill on November 39, that “most landlords do a good job, but the fact is the lack of legal standards means some rentals are not currently fit to live in”.
“About 40,000 children a year are admitted to hospital due to diseases are related to poor housing, and 1,600 New Zealanders’ lives a cut short by illnesses caused by living in cold, damp conditions,” said Twyford. “This has to change. Thanks to this law, it will.”
The National Party has criticised the bill as meaningless, saying that legal minimum requirements were already in place. The New Zealand Herald reported that Twyford said, prior to the third reading of the bill, that new standards might see extra costs for landlords.
“We think between $3000 and $5000, if you have to insulate from scratch and put in a heat pump. But we’re going to be providing grants of up to $2000 per property to assist with that.” He also said that he did not think the bill’s minimum standards would push up the price of rent – and increases would be marginal “if at all” because rents were set by supply and demand and all landlords in the market would have to meet the standards.
Twyford said the government would run a consultation process over the next 18 months to ensure that tenants, landlords, public health and building science experts and industry representatives had an opportunity to get involved in “creating robust minimum standards”.