Candidate Brian Dawson answers Renters United’s questions

September 30, 2019 11:29 pm

Renters United asked every candidate in the Pukehīnau/Lambton Ward 14 questions about the issues that most concern renters in Wellington. Here are Brian Dawson responses in full. Compare Brian with other candidates.

Housing quality:

How will you ensure all council owned and/or managed housing is safe, warm and dry? 

City Housing is half way through a major upgrade programme.

The remaining upgrades are scheduled over the next ten years at a cost of
approx. $180 million.

I will be pushing to speed up that process, with the first priority being to ensure all council units meet the Healthy Homes standards by 2022.

What actions would you take to improve the quality of private rental housing in Wellington?

I would like to get council’s public health team more involved in this space to put pressure on poor landlords to improve their properties.

I will be exploring what role(s) Council can play in ensuring Healthy Homes standards are being met and enforced.

I will be looking to get council support for a tenant-focused support service.

Security of tenure: 

How will you ensure all council tenants have security of tenure?

All council tenants are social housing tenants, and as such have security of tenure as long as they remain within the scope of social housing policy.

When a tenant comes out of scope (because their income lifts for example) there is a transition period of twelve months before they are required to move. I believe that’s appropriate.

There is a review of City Housing policies underway at the moment which will include any other issues surrounding tenure that people may raise.

What actions would you take to improve stability and security for private renters?

Council’s apartment conversion scheme will include options for long-term leases. My hope is this will encourage others to follow suit.

As noted above, I am in favour of council supporting tenant support services.

Housing supply and affordability:

WCC estimates Wellington has a shortfall of 4,000 houses. Rents have increased in the city by 10% per annum for the last three years.

During the last local body elections you supported increasing the council increasing it’s provision of social housing. Would you set a target for Council to double its housing portfolio by 2024 (from approximately 2,000 units to 4,000)?

No, this simply isn’t realistic. The first priority must be ensuring current housing is of good standard. There are plans to rebuild and expand two currently closed City Housing blocks.

Where we can make real gains for social housing is by partnering with both Housing NZ and Community Housing Providers. The lease arrangement with HNZ for the Arlington sites will ensure around 300 units are built there. Housing NZ is also building several hundred other units in the city over the next few years.

I am committed to a gradual increase in council housing stock and supporting a wider increase in social housing by working with others as above.

How many new houses do you think the City Council should be building annually (above and beyond the private sector)?

I would like to see Council directly contributing at least 150 housing units per year.

What are your other ideas for addressing the housing shortage and how would you make those a Council priority?

Expanding the apartment conversion scheme.

Making consenting processes easier and cheaper.

Providing rates and levies incentives for those building affordable housing.

I will be championing all these initiatives at the council table, especially in the next Long Term Plan process.

Would you advocate for additional powers or resources from Central Government to address the housing crisis (such as the ability to freeze rents), if so what and how? 

I will certainly be looking for government support, both in terms of partnering on housing projects and extending Income Related Rents Subsidies to Council tenants.

I would want to look more carefully at rent controls as studies suggest they can be counterproductive.

Meaningful enforcement of laws:

Renters United believes the council should be more proactive in supporting renters to enforce both the existing and new housing quality laws (i.e. the Healthy Homes Standards). This could include funding and undertaking inspections of private rental houses against the standards and/or funding advocacy services to support renters in enforcing their rights.

During the last local body elections you supported the introduction of a  rental warrant of fitness. Would you support and fund Council proactively inspecting rental homes?

Yes

Do you think that Council should play a greater role in enforcing the standards?

Yes. I am disappointed central govt has chosen not to have local council’s enforcing the Healthy Homes standards. As noted above, I will be pushing for council to be more involved in this space.

You supported the introduction of targeted rates incentives for rental
housing that met quality standards during the last local body elections.
What other actions would you take to improve the quality of rental housing in Wellington?

Extending the current home insulation and heating schemes through GWRC to include other remedial work would be helpful.

Would you fund a dedicated tenants’ advocacy service?

Yes, provided it met funding criteria.

What else do you think Council should do to address power imbalance between landlords and tenants?

As noted, I support the idea of a tenant advocacy service.

Do you have any other ideas or plans relevant to renters that you would like to share?

The key thing that council can do is assist with increasing the supply of rental housing. I will be very focused on that going forward.

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