What is the Healthy Homes Standards, the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act 2017 and why is it just for rental properties and not all homes? The goal should be healthy homes for all!
Poor Quality Homes
In New Zealand, we’ve been building terrible homes for decades. The Building Act is to blame for allowing shoddy building practices and materials. The bar has been set too low, and hence we’re had decades of leaky homes from the 1950s onwards, says a health researcher in an article on Stuff.co.nz
The new homes built on existing foundations, as part of the ‘Christchurch Rebuild’ are below par, but land movement threatens as many as 60,000 homes due to the poor state of foundations in Christchurch.
Rubble foundations were used in Christchurch homes many decades after the rest of New Zealand had stopped using it. So sub-par building, like the continuation of leaky homes and poor foundations, the future cost of to the Crown is likely to be huge. For the rot to stop, the quality of our building has to rise substantially.
New Zealand needs more new homes, but more importantly, we need better quality homes.
Healthy Home Standards
So back to the Healthy Homes Standards (HHS) and Healthy Homes Guarantee Act 2017 (HHGA). Why are these initiatives just focused on rental properties when the evidence suggests most of our homes are poor quality?
Well, property investors have purchased low-value homes that were once owned by private owner-occupiers, and the Government, i.e. state homes. Many of these homes now fall into the ‘should be razed to the ground’ status, yet instead, they’re housing some of New Zealand’s most vulnerable.
Up to 10 percent of New Zealand houses are not fit for habitation, and most are not warm enough, a health researcher says.
The Healthy Homes Standards is to right the wrong with these homes. It’s a good focus, but it’s not the magic solution. We have too many inferior homes, many of which are owned by occupiers, who don’t need to comply with the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act.
There are more owner-occupier homes than rental properties in New Zealand. Sixty-three percent of people live in their home, and due to our inferior buildings, they too are living in unhealthy environments.
Owner-occupiers do not need to upgrade their properties with:
- ground moisture barrier
- bathroom and kitchen extractor fans
- heating source that can heat the main room to 18 degrees celsius.
There’s also the argument that with a lot of rental property stock, adding some insulation, and a couple of extractor fans is like using a bandaid to fix a broken bone.
Thirty-five percent of heat escapes through un-insulated walls, and another 10 percent out single glazed windows and doors, so the current insulation requirements don’t go far enough. I hear you; you’re saying that’s next on the list.
Retrofit double glazed windows and fill walls with blown in insulation and why not? Well, cost is an excellent reason.
Landlords Selling Up
Distressed landlords, most of whom are ‘ma and pa’ investors with one or two rental properties, are already finding it hard to keep going.
The return on investment is hardly making it worthwhile. Increases in running costs including steep rises in insurance, and annual rates increases coupled with property tax changes, are tipping many landlords over the edge and they’re selling up, and this is shrinking the stock rental properties which house the people who will never own their own home.
What we want is healthy homes for all. We need to focus our attention on improving our building standards and compliance to prevent shoddy workmanship and inferior products used in our new homes.
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