Renters, Māori and Pasifika among those most affected as poor housing habitability fails to improve - Human Rights Commission inquiry

A Human Rights Commission housing inquiry has revealed that renters, Māori and Pasifika people are among those most affected by poor housing habitability in New Zealand.

The Commission focused on three human rights indicators as part of its measuring progress series: rates of dampness and mould, household crowding and coldness.

Chief Commissioner Paul Hunt said there has been almost no improvement in all three indicators in rental housing.

"The indicator for dampness and mould in rental housing shows a small improvement, but the other two indicators - household crowding and cold - show no improvement," he said in a statement on Wednesday.

Most housing indicators show rental housing is of significantly poorer quality than those who live in their own home.

There is also a considerable difference in homeownership rates between ethnic groups, with Māori and Pasifika being less likely to live in a house they own themselves.

Hunt said everyone has the right to a decent home, but these indicators paint a contrasting picture with not everyone across the country equally able to access habitable housing.

"Housing habitability affects the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders, contributing to a burden of disease for people living in poor-quality housing," he said.

"These indicators lay it out clearly for us: local and central government and private landlords must improve housing habitability in order to achieve the progressive realisation of the right to a decent home.

"To make sure they do that, the country needs a new effective accountability mechanism, which uses the indicators."

Hunt believes these indicators provide an insight into the failings of governments which have forgotten to address Te Tiriti o Waitangi's responsibilities in regards to habitable homes for Tangata Whenua.

He said Tangata Whenua housing issues stem directly from colonisation, which saw racist policies of dispossession of land and resources, forcing whānau into poverty and dependence.

"Improving the habitability of housing for Tangata Whenua must also be seen in this context of honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi, addressing racism, addressing land loss, land use barriers, and improving access to appropriate housing."

Hunt believes the recent Healthy Homes legislation should help improve housing overall and reduce the gap between owner-occupied and rental housing.

However, he said this will only be possible if landlords comply and do not leave it up to the tenants to hold them to account.

The Chief Commissioner is also concerned by the rise of inflation as New Zealand heads into winter, with more people likely to feel the cold as they struggle to afford to heat their homes.