A Warrant of Fitness scheme for Housing New Zealand homes will target 500 houses between now and July, Housing Minister Nick Smith announced today.
He said the system needed to be practical so it could be applied to thousands of houses across New Zealand. “We need to be cautious of removing houses from the rental market when there is a shortage. We also need to ensure that the benefits of the Warrant of Fitness standard exceed the costs, because housing affordability is a significant issue.”
The checks will look at whether the property is insulated and dry, safe and secure and whether it has essential amenities.
Smith said detailed criteria would be refined with experience. “I am expecting Housing New Zealand to report later this year on the number of houses that pass, the deficiencies that have been identified in their housing stock, and a realistic timetable and cost to bring all houses up to the new standard. The results from the sample of 500 will also allow us to determine the proportion of Housing New Zealand’s houses that would meet the standard.”
Every Housing New Zealand home would then be checked on a three-year basis. “The Government has not made any decisions about the wider application of the Warrant of Fitness to other social housing providers or the private rental market. Our first duty is to ensure our own house is in order. We also want to test the trial scheme to ensure it is practical and cost effective.”
The New Zealand Property Investors Federation said the scheme would increase the cost of providing rental property, even when no improvements were required.
If a WOF was applied to private rental properties it would be the tenants and owners who would end up paying for the regular inspections. “Ask tenants if a WOF is a good idea and many may well say yes. But how many would still think it was a good idea if it meant an increase in their rental costs?”
The NZPIF said a number of affiliated associations reported that many tenants could not afford the power to heat their homes, even if insulation was provided. “Rather than a blanket WOF on all rental properties, the NZPIF believes the focus should be on heating and insulation, as this will provide the greatest benefit to tenants in need.”
It said insulation and heating should be tax deductible expenses and the Government should subsidise heating and insulation for properties rented by low-income tenants. It also suggested providing electricity vouchers over winter for low-income tenants with health problems, and including information about how to keep homes warmer and drier in the letters tenants received from the bond centre.