National's 'chaotic' plan to gut Healthy Homes Act will lead to renters living in 'hovels', say experts

Kris Faafoi has blasted Judith Collins and the National Party for what he says is a "chaotic" and "ad hoc" announcement to scrap the Healthy Homes standards.

On Monday NZME reported National confirmed it would tear up the Healthy Homes Act brought in by Labour which ensures that rental properties are insulated, heated and draught free - a claim National's leader Judith Collins has denied. 

There has been no formal policy announcement regarding this from National since Simon Bridges was leader - two leaders ago in March. 

Bridges said the Party would scrap the rules - bar the law that properties are insulated - as it would increase costs too much to bring homes up to the new standards. 

Collins said on Monday the Party would not repeal all changes.

"The ones relating to insulation will be kept and we don’t see a need to make any other immediate changes in this area," she told Newshub in a statement. 

"But we will remove those regulations that cause an unnecessary burden and drive up the cost of rents, such as the rules making it difficult to remove problematic tenants, the ability for tenants to modify rentals without permission, and regulations prescribing heating output on qualifying heaters that require advanced mathematics to interpret."

Faafoi, the Government's associate housing minister, said the lack of concrete policy proves National is not fit to govern.

"This looks like more policy made up on the fly from National. There was no formal policy announcement from their housing spokesperson, just a dictate from Judith Collins with no details," he said in a statement on Monday.

"The fact that National wants to rip up minimum healthy homes standards that are about protecting children from contracting respiratory illnesses shows where their values lie."

Collins hit back at Faafoi saying the Government should ask itself why the waiting list for state housing has grown from 6000 in 2017 to a record 14,500 at the end of 2019.

"[The Government] can't even rent out [the] Kiwibuild houses they can't sell and that is a disgrace," she said.

"[Faafoi] might want to ask himself why that list has grown and that is because there are fewer people wanting to be landlords."

Collins said National wants renters living in warm, dry homes but "pitting landlords and tenants against each other is not the solution".

"Too much regulation, too quickly on landlords without any incentives only leaves fewer people willing to be landlords and all that will happen is rentals become even more expensive, or landlords will sell up and there will be fewer places to rent."

It's not just the Government that is shocked at the proposal to strip back the Act however - the New Zealand Green Building Council says it would condemn renters to living in "hovels".

Chief executive Andrew Eagles says scrapping the laws would be disastrous.

"[It] would condemn thousands of New Zealanders to damp, mouldy homes, and could cost the economy billions of dollars. It could cost hard-pressed families millions in more expensive household bills too," he said on Monday.

Not everyone is so appalled at the proposed plan -a spokesperson for the New Zealand Property Investors Foundation says landlords should wait until after the election before installing heat pumps in their rental properties - because if National gets in it may not be a legal requirement.

Andrew King said it "probably is a good idea to hold off" on installing heaters, as a National election win would allow landlords to give tenants a choice, he claimed.

King says tenants could choose if they wanted to pay extra rent for a heat pump - up to $3000 for installation - or they could refuse it, and have their rent stay the same. The median rent in New Zealand was $515 per week in February - a record high.

Faafoi took aim at these comments, saying it would be "deeply disappointing" if landlords were being advised to hold off on providing safe environments for tenants "on the basis that a more malleable Government might get into power and scrap basic standards that would see New Zealand's poor track record on healthy housing vastly improved".

Collins' distanced herself from King's comments, saying she thought landlord's should try to "do their best" but she sympathised with property owners. 

"Some may not have the money - I'd rather they did [install heat pumps] but it's not me paying those bills it's the tenants paying."

Newshub has contacted National's housing spokesperson Jacqui Dean for comment.