Improving housing quality

We work with our local community to help improve the quality and health of the homes in our city.

Housing quality is important

We are taking an interest in the quality of housing because of the health impacts of poor housing on vulnerable groups such as children and the elderly.

Your house can seriously affect your health if its not warm and dry and free from mould.  This can be challenging as many New Zealand homes were built before there were rules about things like insulation and ventilation.

A lack of housing affordability, unhealthy homes and overcrowding are challenges facing many cities in New Zealand.  Porirua is no exception.  Over a fifth of children in Porirua live in a house which is overcrowded.  Over a quarter of residents report their home having a problem with damp or mould.  One-third of our residents struggle to pay to heat their homes properly through winter.

We have some regulatory powers to help address unsafe housing as well as an important advocacy and promotional role for healthy housing.

Our regulatory options for improving housing quality

In 2017 we reviewed the regulatory tools available to us that could be used to improve the quality of housing in Porirua.  Different pieces of legislation have been developed over time.  The overall approach is piecemeal and fragmented.  Much of the legislation is dated and poorly understood.  

We concluded that  the current legislation is not fit-for-purpose and needs an overhaul.  We believe this needs to be led by Central Government as the issue of sub-standard housing are not are not unique to Porirua. 

We are advocating to central government for improvements in housing standards whenever opportunities arise.

In January 2016 we made a submission on the Government's Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill that proposed mandatory long-life smoke alarms and insulation. We indicating our support for the bill but requested inclusion of a broader range of requirements for private rentals.   This bill is now law and goes part way to where we want to be.  Insulation Statements are now compulsory on all new tenancy agreements.  Insulation will be compulsory on all rentals from 1 July 2019.  See the Tenancy Services website for more detail.

In 2017 we also made a submission in support of Andrew Little's Healthy Housing Guarantee Bill (No.2) that requires all rental properties to have heating and insulation.  This bill became an Act in 2017.  It means all rental properties must meet insulation requirements in ceilings and underfloor by 1 July 2019.  MBIE is also leading work to develop new standards for heating, ventilation, draught stopping, drainage and moisture control.  This work is not likely to be completed until 2019 but landlords could be fined up to $4,000 for non-compliance once the legislation is in force.

Porirua Remit to LGNZ

As part of Council’s advocacy role to improve the quality of housing in the city, we submitted a remit to the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) on 24 July 2016.  The remit, supported by Councils from other metropolitan areas, asked LGNZ to urgently engage with the Government on ways to strengthen minimum standards for rental housing to ensure it is warm, dry and healthy to live in.  93% of Councils voted in support of this remit. We are delighted with this result and will monitor developments between LGNZ and the Government on this important issue.  

Regulatory requirements

Residential Tenancies Act

Are you a tenant or landlord? Tenancy Services provides information about your basic rights and what you must do under New Zealand tenancy law and guidance on dealing with common tenancy issues. Please note that the Council has no monitoring or enforcement role under the Residential Tenancies Act.

Landlords and tenants have a range of options for resolving disputes - which are handled by the Tenancies Tribunal. It is important that tenants keep paying their rent throughout any dispute process, otherwise it will likely jeopardise their ability to get redress through the Tribunal.

As mentioned above, the Government made changes to the Residential Tenancies Act (and associated regulations) last year to make homes warmer, drier and safer. Further changes are on there way to provide more protection and security of tenure for tenants.

Health Act & Housing Improvement Regulations

The Council regulates the following aspects of the Health Act and Housing Improvement Regulations:

  • The landlord is responsible for ensuring the property is sound and that moisture does not enter the house from outside or from leaking pipes, ie if the source of dampness results from a building defect, such as poor building materials, construction, or leaking pipes. 
  • Tenants are responsible for cleaning and maintaining premises to keep them free from mould, eg adequate heating and ventilation of clothes driers. 
  • The Council can issue orders targeted at both tenant and landlord where the cause of dampness is the condition of a dwelling. Regulatory options include a cleansing order, which is requirement to cleanse the property, or nuisance notice, eg to remove build-up of rubbish.

The Building Act

The Building Act and the Building Code largely focus on the way that buildings are designed and constructed, and is mostly helpful for tenants in new or recently-renovated dwellings. For tenants in older houses, the Building Act provides some opportunity for the Council to manage actual and foreseeable harm relating to the building by:

  • identifying a building as dangerous or insanitary 
  • declaring a building as dangerous, ie when there is an immediate threat that is likely to cause death or injury to people in or near it or damage to other property 
  • declaring a building insanitary, including if the building has insufficient or defective provisions against moisture penetration so as to cause dampness in the building or in any adjoining building 

Assistance programmes

Whether you are a tenant, homeowner or landlord, a wide range of help is available to improve your home health, comfort and reduce energy bills.

Well Homes – help for whānau with housing-related health issues 

Well Homes is a housing intervention service which supports low-income families with hosuing related health issues. Well Homes links whānau to appropriate services such as insulation, heating, curtain banks, beds, bedding, carpets, rugs, financial assistance and social housing providers. Simple cost-effective solutions are part of the plan e.g. whānau get white vinegar and a cloth to help with cleaning mould.

The Well Homes service is a partnership between Regional Public Health (RPH), Tu Kotahi Māori Asthma Trust, He Kāinga Oranga (University of Otago School of Medicine), and Sustainability Trust. Well Homes is a pathway for nurses, doctors, social workers and community health workers to refer a family or whanau, who may be experiencing housing problems, for support.

For more information please call 04 570 9002 or 0800 675 675, email wellhomes@huttvalleydhb.org.nz or message us via the Well Homes Facebook page.

EECA Warmer Kiwi Homes Programme

Warmer Kiwi Homes (called Well Homes in the Wellington Region) is a four year Government Programme offering grants covering two-thirds of the cost of ceiling and underfloor insulation and ground moisture barriers.  It replaces the Warm Up NZ Healthy Homes programme.  It targets home owners:

  • of houses built before 2008 who 
  • either have a Community Services Card, SuperGold combo card 
  • or own and live in a low income area
  • have been referred by the Healthy Homes Initiative.

To find out more visit Energywise

Greater Wellington insulation assistance

The Greater Wellington Regional Council offers ratepayers up to $3,900 in financial assistance for home insulation. It can be repaid through a targeted rate on your regular rates bill over nine years.

Rental Asset Report service

The Sustainability Trust is offering a service to landlords in response to the new requirements under the Residential Tenancies Act 2016. The Rental Asset Report service involves a detailed building inspection to determine the level of insulation, heating and moisture in the home.  Landlords are given a Rental Asset Report with recommendations on what needs to be done to ensure properties are compliant with the new Act. They can install tamper-free 10 year smoke alarms if required.  

The Rental Asset Report service is available to landlords for $110 + GST.  

Wellington Curtain Bank

Uncovered windows can lose four or five times as much heat as an uninsulated wall. The Wellington Curtain Bank provides free, fitted curtains to families around the Wellington Region who hold a Community Services Card.

Many landlords supply thermal-backed curtains in their properties as these are readily available and affordable.  Unfortunately they don’t wash well and the thermal backing can stick to itself and ruin the curtains if machine washed. They can be dry cleaned but this is an expensive option for landlords and tenants.

Instead of buying thermal-backed curtains, you can get lined (insulated) curtains made through the Curtain Bank. Double layering offers greater thermal qualities than thermally-backed single-layer curtains and if made from poly/cotton will wear and wash well.

The Curtain Bank is open from 1 March to 30 November each year on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for appointments.  

Tips for healthy homes

Warm and healthy homes are good for landlords, because:

  • A rental property that’s well-insulated and has energy-efficient heating and appliances is easier to market and can attract a higher rent. 
  • The integrify of the building fabric will be preserved for longer if dry and mould free, reducing the need for costly maintenance.
  • Tenants are likely to stay longer in a rental property that's warm and cheap to heat. This reduces the costs of high tenant turnover. 
  • Tenants in a damp or cold home are more likely to suffer avoidable illness, often resulting in unplanned medical bills and time off work. Unexpected financial burdens like this may increase the risk of missed rent payments. 

For further advice on how to stay dry and keep moisture out, see the following websites: