Papers obtained last week under the Official Information Act show that up to $7000 of extra spending may be required for each of the 588,700 rental properties in New Zealand and that this will have little benefit, Tenancies War spokesman Mike Butler said today.
Extra rental property standards on insulation, heating, ventilation, moisture protection, draught-proofing and drainage, under the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act, which were sent out for public consultation last month, are being finalised now.
Advice to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Phil Twyford, showed benefits only from insulation and draught-proofing, with heating, extractor fans, and moisture-proofing mainly incurring costs without benefits:
· Insulation of up to 70,000 properties to 2001 standard of R1.9 in most of the North Island expected a benefit of $64 a year per property.
· Heat pumps in living rooms achieving a temperature of 18C in 180,000 properties showed a cost of $33 a year. No benefit was cited.
· Extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms incurred a cost of $48 per property. No benefit was shown.
· A cost of $48 per property was cited for moisture-proofing and drainage work in 192,000 properties. No benefit was cited.
· Draught-proofing tape around windows and doors was recommended with a claimed benefit of $49 per property if 30 percent of rental stock required it.
The total cost of around $7000 comprises insulation $2452 (an insulation top-up costs roughly the same as first-time insulation), a heat pump $3000, two extractor fans $1000, a ground moisture barrier $700, and draught-proofing (costs unclear).
A compliance deadline of sometime between July 1, 2019, and 2024 was recommended, as were exemplary damages of $4000 for non-compliance.
It will be over to rental property owners either to recoup the $7000 by adding around $14 a week to rent for 10 years, or pay for it without recouping it.
The Minister was warned that these costs would be added to rent for those owners who chose not to sell up. Grants to cover costs were recommended, according to the OIA release.
The Minister was advised that the biggest gain achieving 80 percent heat-loss reduction was insulating to the 1978 standard, which was R1.9. Anything over that had little extra gain.
It appears from the papers that the total number of uninsulated rental properties in New Zealand is unknown.
Looking past all the rhetoric in this debate, it appears that all that actually needs to be done, if reducing heat loss in winter is a worthy aim, is to find out what properties are uninsulated and take steps to remedy this, Mr Butler said.
An offer from the Government of free insulation subject to a visit by a Government official to confirm that the property is uninsulated could achieve that, Mr Butler said.
Advice to the Minister is that cold is an issue for the very young and the very old. Any health issues, therefore, could be addressed by a targeted approach ensuring that the vulnerable have and can afford adequate heating, he said.
A fixed heat pump is not the only way to lift the temperature to 18C or 20C. There is a range of options including wood-burners, flued gas heaters, and efficient portable electric heaters that we have been using for decades without difficulty, Mr Butler said.
If this extra $7000 of spending is imposed, much of which has been shown to have a cost without a benefit, in the current environment of strong demand for rental property, owners can charge extra so they most probably will, and this will go on top of current rent increases, Mr Butler said.
This is part of the Government’s policy of “making life better for renters” but the Minister may actually be making life more expensive for renters, he said.
The group Stop the War on Tenancies aims to empower both owners and tenants in the face of ongoing Government ineptitude with housing.