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Get Over It, Stalin
Last Wednesday Parliament failed to pass the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill sponsored by Labour’s Phil Twyford, with the House split on the measure 60-60.
The Bill was submitted with the aim of ensuring that “every rental home in New Zealand meets minimum standards of heating and insulation” according to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority standards.
Under the Bill, landlords would also have to declare or guarantee that their properties were up to minimum health and safety standards.
Because bills require a majority to pass, the tie meant the Bill was dismissed. National and Act voted against the Bill while Labour, the Greens, the Māori Party, NZ First and United Future voted in favour.
The dismissal comes as a blow to VUWSA, which has campaigned since 2013 to introduce warrant of fitness standards to rental accommodation in Wellington and to assist students living in substandard flats.
VUWSA President Rick Zwaan told Salient it was “disappointing that the Government voted down the Bill”.
Students took to social media to respond, with some championing free market economics and the Bill’s dismissal, claiming students simply needed to “give up [their] latest iphone and daily lattes in the city” and find cheaper and better homes.
Others said healthy housing was a human right not a consumer product, and pointed to rheumatic illnesses they had suffered as a result of poor housing conditions.
However, Zwaan says that VUWSA will continue to lobby the Wellington City Council to introduce a rental WoF policy “to ensure we don’t have to keep putting up with cold mouldy flats.”
The Government dismissed the bill on the grounds that landlords were likely to increase rents in order to meet the costs that the new housing standards would force them to subsidise. Members also claimed the Bill would force landlords to take properties off the markets. National MP Paul Foster-Bell described the Bill as “Stalinist”, presumably because the gulags were cosy, dry and insulated places.
Twyford said that the Bill provided a five-year period for houses to be brought up to liveable standards, and that the cost of upgrading a home to meet the Bill’s standards was tiny when compared to landlords’ total revenues over that five-year period.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t hear the debate between Foster-Bell and Twyford, most likely due to our damp-ridden ears and the wind streaming through our flat’s uninsulated windows.