Hands-on housing policies needed

Last updated 07:31 14/12/2012

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OPINION: I get asked all the time what are the biggest issues we face in New Zealand today, writes Clare Curran (Labour) in From the Beehive.

The lack of jobs and the state of our housing will be in the top three. Affordable housing, and too many cold, damp houses. Which is why Labour leader David Shearer made housing the focus of his recent speech at the Labour Party conference. New Zealanders are failing to realise their dream of owning their first home, and the housing market is failing thousands of Kiwi families.

There is a lack of affordable entry-level homes, in the 1960s and 1970s, when home ownership was on the rise, 30-35 per cent of the new houses built were entry-level homes. Today, that proportion has fallen to 5 per cent.

The lack of affordable housing is increasing the reliance of families on rental housing, which is often cold, damp and unhealthy. A 2010 survey by the Building Research Association of New Zealand found that only 22 per cent of rental properties were in good condition and 44 per cent were in poor condition. Contacts at the University of Otago, who are researching in the area of fuel poverty, say that rates of "potential fuel poverty" in Dunedin are 47 per cent. It's likely that Invercargill, Balclutha, Gore, Milton and most other towns in Otago and Southland have similar rates of fuel poverty. We need to fix this in order to help put a stop to child poverty and the spread of disease in homes where some families are forced to live in one room to keep warm.

The home insulation scheme, started under Labour, has been very successful, but it has had limited impact. Just 5 per cent of the country's rental stock has been insulated with the Warm Up New Zealand subsidy. This isn't good enough for renters.

That's why Labour will introduce a healthy homes guarantee, requiring landlords to ensure every rental house is meeting minimum standards of insulation and efficient heating.

We need to make sure that we take a hands-on approach, not stand back and watch this any longer. Labour is committing to putting 100,000 Kiwi families into their first home, creating new jobs, including 2000 apprenticeships, and boosting the economy through KiwiBuild - the largest public building programme in 50 years.

Labour will fight to create jobs, opportunities and build a smart, powerful economy.

» Clare Curran is the MP for Dunedin South.

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- The Southland Times

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