The Government’s new healthy homes standards, which aim to make rental properties warmer and drier, have missed out a vital area of the home.
That’s the verdict of Dunedin’s Cosy Homes Trust project manager Jordana Whyte, in the wake of the release of the standards late last month by Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford.
The standards set the minimum requirements for heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture and drainage, and draught stopping in residential rental properties.
While they require all rental homes to have a heater that can heat the main living area to 18degC, the standards fail to set a minimum temperature for bedrooms.
For Ms Whyte, this is “a huge miss”, especially given how much time we all spend in our bedrooms.
“I believe that having a reasonable temperature in the bedroom is vital, especially with children and the elderly,” she said.
“As it is very true for the elderly people I speak with, that on cold days some will go back to bed with the newspaper and spend the day there.”
While the new standards were a step in the right direction, they were “truly a minimum”, Ms Whyte said.
“There was an opportunity here for a much bigger impact,” she said.
“The standards are not onerous, and I believe many landlords will already be compliant.”
Requiring ground vapour barriers for homes with an enclosed sub-floor space was a good move, as many people did not realise how much moisture could rise up, she said.
It was also positive that the standards would give specific guidance about acceptable and unacceptable heating, she said.
With Dunedin still having many old and cold houses, particularly ones occupied by renters, it would take the introduction of the new healthy homes standards and ongoing community efforts to warm up local homes.
The national insulation scheme, now called Warmer Kiwi Homes, is receiving an infusion of funds over the next four years, and from July 1 there will be subsidies for heating appliances.
People who are interested in the heating programme are able to register their interest at cosyhomes.org.nz.
Local insulation schemes are well-funded by the Otago Community Trust and the Dunedin City Council.
Nationally, the Warmer Kiwi Homes programme has resulted in more philanthropic trusts such as the Otago Community Trust coming on board, further reducing insulation costs for home owners.
grants were targeted at those who needed them most – homeowners with a Community Services Card – as well as people living in areas defined as having higher wellbeing needs, Otago Community Trust chief executive Barbara Bridger said.
“Research tells us that there is a direct correlation between better housing and reduced mortality, lower hospital admissions, lower prescription costs and reduced absences from school and work due to illness.
“The Otago Community Trust is pleased to support this programme, which ultimately delivers better health outcomes for the people of Otago,” Ms Bridger said.