Move to cap rents after calamity

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 05:00 10/12/2013

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Capping rent prices in the wake of big natural disasters and a warrant of fitness on all rental properties are among Human Rights Commission (HRC) recommendations to the Government prompted by the Canterbury earthquakes.

The HRC today releases a report that considers the human rights challenges that emerged during the quake recovery.

The report - Monitoring Human Rights in the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery - makes 33 recommendations to improve access to adequate housing, health services and help businesses make a positive contribution.

The 184-page report covers all aspects of the recovery - from housing affordability and Government land zoning to an increase in mental health problems and school closures and mergers.

"We are now seeing high levels of psychosocial harm caused by the stress of community dislocation, financial distress, unresolved insurance claims and poor or insecure housing," Chief Commissioner David Rutherford said.

Property rights and lack of participation in decision-making had also become big issues, Rutherford said.

"A natural disaster is no excuse for human rights to be ignored."

The commission recommends the Government ensure provision of adequate housing, including social housing, for vulnerable people.

It says the Government, if possible, should develop a cross-party national housing plan and co-ordinate the monitoring of housing supply and demand for urgent short-term housing needs in greater Christchurch.

It also believes the Government should consider whether rent control measures in the aftermath of large-scale natural disasters should be introduced. The report says a housing warrant of fitness should be applied to all rental properties.

The commission's report shows the recovery has caused "challenges to the realisation of a range of economic and social rights" and had also affected civil and political rights, including the right to participation and access to information.

The Christchurch City Council should review and update its social housing strategy for vulnerable people to reflect the lessons learned from the earthquakes.

In regards to tenancy security, it recommends the Government prepare a discussion paper on whether the Residential Tenancies Act should be amended so that notices for tenants to vacate properties can be lengthened to 12 weeks and the landlord required to provide a reason. As it stands, the required notice periods vary from 14 days to 90.

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- The Press

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