The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has used a study by the Otago University's Injury Prevention Research Unit to call for a Warrant of Fitness for rental properties.
The group claim that "the increasing cost and affordability of housing has serious consequences. Poor housing conditions in infancy and childhood have a cumulative detrimental effect on physical and mental health. Consideration of the quality of private and public rentals was largely missing from current discussion. Rising rents are a major concern."
The University Unit analysed overnight hospital stays for children under 15 years between 2007 and 2012. They found that over the five year period there were over 15,000 unintentional injuries within the home environment. Based on this they also claimed that a rental property WOF was required.
While 15,000 hospital admissions from accidents around the home sounds a lot, this is over a five year period. Breaking the report down to an annual basis shows that there are 3,073 admissions per year. This is about 0.35% of children in this age group.
As a WOF would only apply to rental property, the report says that a WOF could help prevent around 1,435 of these accidents a year. That's about 0.16% of children in this age group.
Here's some examples of how they see the WOF working.
127 children per year trip, slip or stumble on a flat surface at home.
WOF inspector to check path surfaces
356 children caught, crushed, jammed or pinched between objects in the home.
Heavy furniture is secured to the wall. Control devices are installed on all external doors and in windy areas.
104 falls through the building structure.
Locks, barriers and safety glass on all high (over 1m) or hazardous windows.
76 children fall on stairs.
Install handrails on all stairs and steps.
It is debatable how many of the 1,435 accidents a year that can be prevented through a rental property WOF, but the group admits that the chain of events leading to an accident are complex and involve more than just the living environment. This is shown by the fact that boys account for 60% of accidents.
At best you are probably looking at preventing 0.05% of children from having an accident. The question must be asked, how far do we need to go to prevent injuries around our homes? This is particularly pertinent given that the report states that there has been a continual decrease in reported unintentional injury trends over the past 10 years.
It would appear that awareness of and education about injuries in the home are already reducing accidents, so do we need to spend many more millions of dollars to get another marginal improvement? Kids are always going to have accidents, so what is an acceptable level where you stop throwing money at a problem?
An ironic point is that the report says that rising rents are a major concern, yet their own solution would put upward pressure on rental prices.
The biggest unanswered question is why tenant children's injuries are worth preventing but home owner's children aren't. Surely if it is worth all this effort to prevent tenant accidents it should be worth it to prevent home owner accidents as well. As there are twice as many homeowners as tenants, the improvement results would be three times better if all homes were covered.
Under the current proposal, a rental property can be deemed unsafe but if it is then sold to the tenant, it somehow becomes safe again.
The NZPIF's view is all New Zealanders should be treated equally regarding safety. If the safety measures that are part of a rental property WOF are warranted, then they should be applied to all New Zeala