Opinion: Farmers deserve honest discussion about the future of housing

  • 05/11/2018

By Chris Lewis, Federated Farmers

OPINION: We need an honest discussion about the future of housing.

No one wants to live in a black mould pit or an asthma-inducing hell hole.

The conversation will have to be blunt about the cost of housing and where successive central governments have put us.

Recently, Federated Farmers attended the first of a series of public consultation meetings on the proposed Healthy Homes Standards in Christchurch.

The Healthy Homes consultation sessions were a good opportunity to hear a diverse set of views about the standards of rental accommodation throughout New Zealand.  

When our policy advisor introduced themselves as a representative of our organisation, during the meeting they reported back they got a strange look from those participants as if to ask, 'What does Feds need to be here for?'

Her response was 'Our members' employees live on farms in accommodation', and then the penny dropped.  

For those not familiar with the Healthy Home Standards, they have come about because in December 2017 the Government passed the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act, which enabled the development of a set of health-related criteria to be created for rental accommodation.  

The standards are designed to improve the quality of rental homes by prescribing minimum standards for heating, insulation, ventilation and drainage which need to be met in rental accommodation.  

The proposed Healthy Home Standards were released for public consultation throughout September and October and has recently closed.

There were some real head-scratchers in the consultation document, including the proposal to require top-ups to insulation which may already have been installed in rental accommodation. The last Government introduced the requirement for landlords to install insulation into rental accommodation.

Let me get this straight: Federated Farmers does not oppose efforts to ensure rental accommodation is warmer and drier.  Everyone deserves the right to live in a warm and dry house.

However, we are concerned about the introduction of these proposed Healthy Home Standards, and potentially short turnaround time within which to comply with the new Healthy Home Standards.  

This is not to mention the implications of any changes which may eventuate with the proposed changed to the Residential Tenancies Act, at a time when there are multiple pressures on farm business expenses.  

To create a warmer and drier home, the consultation document asked whether landlords should have to provide a fixed or portable heating device in living areas. Federated Farmers was supportive of the provision of a fixed heating device provided in rental accommodation, as too often portable heating devices go missing at the end of a tenancy.  

One concern that I have about the development of these Healthy Home Standards, is there is a requirement for landlords to ensure their rental accommodation achieves the standards, but no onus on tenants to use any features which would of course ensure that homes reach the desired outcome by the Government. 

This is another example of Federated Farmers ensuring our members voices are heard on such vital policy areas such as housing.  

Chris Lewis is Federated Farmers employment and immigration spokesperson