Poor housing impacts families, report says

MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 20:09 12/08/2014

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High and rising rents, poor and deteriorating rentals and few rights for tenants are the key issues facing low-income families, a new report says.

The report, from Child Poverty Action Group, found rents have skyrocketed, particularly in Auckland and Christchurch, but the detrimental impact of poor housing on children was being felt across the country through issues such as hospital admissions relating to damp and overcrowded housing.

The Child Poverty Action Group has also laid out a series of recommendations for addressing issues relating to substandard housing and child poverty, including warrants of fitness for rental properties, the building of 1000 social housing units a year and a national housing plan to ensure need is met.

The report, aimed at putting child poverty on the election agenda, found that families who rented were more likely to suffer from health issues than those who owned their own homes.

"The increasing cost and affordability of housing has serious consequences," the report says.

"Poor housing conditions in infancy and childhood have a cumulative detrimental effect on physical and mental health."

Consideration of the quality of private and public rentals was also "largely missing from current discussion".

Housing policy changes had the potential to have a major impact on vulnerable New Zealanders as nearly 70 per cent of children living in poverty were Housing New Zealand tenants.

Rising rents were also a major concern.

Nationwide, rents had increased by about 11 per cent since 2009 - in line with Consumer Price Index inflation.

But they had jumped by between 20 per cent and 30 per cent in Christchurch since 2009, and by 17 per cent in Auckland where rents were rising about 10 per cent faster than incomes.

The housing markets in South Auckland and Christchurch East were under particular stress.

The report’s recommendations included the development of a national housing plan, which forecast future housing need and ways to meet it, as well as the building of 1000 social housing units a year with a particular focus on areas of high need.

The Government should also continue to provide a subsidy to landlords to ensure rentals were insulated, while the accommodation subsidy should be "urgently reviewed" to improve housing affordability.

CPAG health spokesperson Dr Nikki Turner said the report was aimed at creating more awareness around child poverty heading into the election.

The issue was gaining traction and there was good policy targeting it, but there needed to be a broader focus, she said.

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