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Labour’s Bill purporting to make homes healthier would delay the Government’s requirements for landlords to insulate their rental homes by three years, Building and Construction Minister Dr Nick Smith says.

“There is no debate that insulation makes our homes healthier. That is why National required all 30,000 State homes be insulated as soon as practicable after coming to Government, and why we initiated the Warm-Up New Zealand programme subsidy in our first Budget, providing subsidies for a further 290,000 homes, with a total investment of $566 million. This compares to 50,000 done during the nine years of the previous Labour Government. National also amended the Residential Tenancies Act to require the remaining 180,000 rental homes be insulated by 1 July 2019.

“The odd feature of Andrew Little’s Bill is that it would delay this requirement by more than three years. Clause 2 of the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill has the requirement for landlords to comply with insulation standards come into force five years after the Act receives Royal Assent.

“Nor are there any other health gains from this Bill. The requirements for homes to be heated, ventilated, properly drained and to be free of draughts are already required under existing housing regulations.

“The only new issue in the Bill is the requirement for landlords to maintain their property at a minimum indoor temperature. It is reasonable to require a landlord to provide appropriate heating but not to hold a landlord to account for the temperature of a home. This will depend on whether the heating is used, whether windows and doors are closed and whether drapes are pulled. National opposes this provision because it is impractical.

“There is good evidence that the standard of housing in New Zealand is improving. The latest five-yearly BRANZ survey showed the proportion of well and reasonably maintained rental properties increased from 56 per cent to 68 per cent from 2010 to 2015.

“The Government’s view is that the biggest issue in further improving the standard of rentals is enforcement. We changed the law last year to enable MBIE to directly prosecute landlords and there are now cases involving 400 properties before the Tenancy Tribunal. We are also further strengthening the law with the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill (No 2) that deals with the issues of methamphetamine and the tenanting of non-residential properties like garages.

“Mr Little’s Bill is too little, too late. It is Labour trying to play catch-up on the important issue of insulating rental homes. The reality is it will delay this vital work,” Dr Smith says.

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