New Zealanders should not have to worry about staying warm in their homes in winter. Cold – damp – substandard houses – are a shameful indictment of this Government’s lack of action.
When a coroner ruled that poor housing was a contributing factor in the death of Auckland toddler Emma-Lita Bourne – that finding should have rung alarm bells throughout the nation. It is up to the Government to act in order to prevent another tragedy from happening.
For Prime Minister John Key – who grew up in a state house – the issue should be a top priority. He should care and be seen to care. So should Housing Minister Nick Smith.
How a country looks after its most vulnerable citizens is a critical measure of its success. When it comes to providing healthy and affordable housing – New Zealand is falling woefully behind other nations in the developed world.
The Government must insist on minimum standards for all houses – new and old – for them to be declared fit for purpose. We have warrants of fitness for vehicles after all – and the Consumer Guarantees Act applies to everything from kitchen appliances to televisions – but not to houses – our most important asset – which can be bought and sold and rented out in virtually any condition.
Mouldy bathrooms – rotten timber – and damp cold air make houses hazardous. They should come with a health warning. Nobody should live in them.
The Homestar standard already measures a house’s energy efficiency. Even newer houses sometimes rate poorly. That just shows how much room there is for improvement. A simpler rating system would also make a difference.
To argue that enforcing new standards is just an added compliance cost for businesses and landlords is spurious. Even ignoring the dreadful human cost – which is more expensive: providing health and hospital care for people suffering because of substandard homes – or providing better homes in the first place?
People who are sick do not contribute to the economy.
Warmth and comfort should be something you simply expect along with walls – bedrooms – and bathrooms. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends a minimum indoor temperature of 18 deg C for healthy living.
Many New Zealand houses struggle to achieve that temperature. They freeze in winter. People shiver and huddle in rooms barely above 10 deg.