Holly Walker

$9700 per property WOF cost for landlords? Yeah, nah.

by Holly Walker

Yesterday a random press release from an outfit called the NZ Centre for Political Research came across my desk, claiming that a Warrant of Fitness on all rental houses could cost landlords up to $9,700 per property.

Run for the hills landlords! Proper, costed, evidence-based research shows a rental WOF will cost you nearly $10K per house! The only benefits will be about $2.90 per month per household to the tenants. That doesn’t stack up! Revolt!

Oh wait. First of all, the NZ Centre for Political Research turns out to be a climate change denying “think tank” founded by former ACT MP Dr Muriel Newman. Not a politically neutral source then.

Secondly, when you read the press release, it reveals the $9,700 figure was arrived at from a “rough cost-benefit analysis” based on information in Working Paper No.18 from the Children’s Commissioner’s Expert Advisory Group on Child Poverty last year. Now I’ve read that paper (and it’s excellent), and while it recommends the introduction of a rental WOF, it doesn’t set out in stone the standards that a home would have to meet, it simply suggests introducing something along the lines of the Healthy Housing Index developed by the University of Otago. Hardly the basis on which to do a robust cost estimate.

Furthermore, it’s not even clear whether the estimate is based on the Healthy Housing Index or something else. As best as I can tell, the figure has been pulled out of the air. No evidence, research, costings, or calculations are provided to back it up.

The one claim I am prepared to entertain might be accurate is that more properties would fail than pass a rental WOF given the current state of the New Zealand housing stock. If this is true, this is the best argument I can think of for introducing a rental WOF to ensure we’re all living in safe, healthy, habitable homes.

By contrast, legitimate, costed research by the University of Otago two years ago found that insulating homes under the WarmUp New Zealand scheme had saved $1.7 billion dollars and up to 18 lives. This is the kind of robust research we should be relying on for assessing the merits of upgrading our homes.

The Green Party would introduce a WOF for all rental properties, as outlined in our Home for Life package last year.

While it seems pretty clear the $9,700 figure plucked out of the air by the NZCPR is wildly inflated, we do recognise that there would be some cost to landlords associated with ensuring every property meets the standard. That’s why would provide clear timelines for meeting the standard and financial support for landlords to do so.

Published in Environment & Resource Management | Health & Wellbeing by Holly Walker on Wed, April 9th, 2014   

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