Rental housing in Tauranga will undergo a warrant of fitness check as part of a nationwide project to make housing safer, especially for children, students and the elderly.
WOF tests start on 25 Tauranga rental properties in January, as part of a national programme of field tests on125 rentals in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.
Much of New Zealand's older housing is cold and damp and of lower build standards than in many other OECD countries, says Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby.
'Regardless of the reasons why the houses were built to these standards in the first places, it is well-known that poor housing conditions contribute to more severe asthma, rheumatic fever and other housing-related illnesses,” says Stuart.
'Tauranga City Council is therefore committed to participating in this rental housing WOF field test with the hopes of a tool being developed in the future that will improve housing standards for our community.”
The field tests will not result in the immediate issue of WOFs for the 125 houses but will be an important step towards standardising methodologies and checklists to ensure the credibility of the WOF scheme.
The assessment tool was developed by the NZ Green Building Council and the University of Otago in Wellington with feedback and input from the five councils, ACC and other housing experts.
"ACC is supporting the warrant of fitness trial as part of our focus on reducing injuries in and around the home,” says ACC Programme Manager for Home Safety, Megan Nagel
'Poor lighting and maintenance, slippery surfaces and steps and stairs contribute to many home injuries, so by helping to address factors such as these, a housing warrant of fitness will potentially support efforts to bring injury rates down."
The support of ACC and the five cities involved shows a strong joint commitment to improving local housing and health, says Homestar Director at the New Zealand Green Building Council Leigh Featherstone.
'We hope that by the end of this project there'll be a working tool to rate rental standards nationally. This will make sure rental housing isn't endangering the health of the families living in it. The long-term payoff will be better health, particularly of our kids and elderly.”
The agreement to pre-test the rental warrant of fitness is an outstanding example of what can be achieved by local councils working together to improve rental housing quality for families and communities, says Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman, at the University of Otago, Wellington.
'Over a decade of robust research by the Housing and Health Research Programme has enabled us to develop a world-class rental housing WOF, which we are pre-testing before it's rolled out more widely.”