Mayoral candidate Jo Coughlan answers Renters United’s questions

September 4, 2016 9:55 pm

Renters United asked every candidate for Mayor 11 questions about the issues that most concern renters in Wellington. Here are Jo Coughlan’s responses in full. Compare Jo with other candidates. Read responses from other candidates.

1: Wellington City Council has declared its intention to introduce a rental WOF. Do you support the introduction of a rental WOF? If so, how will you go about its introduction?

In principle I support there being minimum standards for housing. I have six children. Three are currently living in flats and I want them to live in a safe, warm and healthy environments. There has been much debate about how any WOF scheme could be introduced. I’d want to know a WOF was the best way to improve housing standards, given central government noises on this issue.

2: Are there any other steps you would you do to improve the health, quality and safety of rental homes in Wellington?

As above.

3: How would you address homelessness in Wellington?

Homelessness is a complex issue that requires cross-agency support and of course compassion. There are many reasons why people find themselves in this situation and we cannot impose a one-size-fits-all solution. To be able to tackle the problem we need a comprehensive and compassionate response. We are a diverse and inclusive city. I will work with all agencies and NGOs to ensure we provide safe and supportive responses. All citizens must be treated with dignity and respect whether they are homeless or otherwise. We currently have a number of initiatives including a night shelter and of course our large number of social houses. I have also suggested that we set up “kindest meters” for beggars, and also a interactive kiosk for homeless people, where in a similar manner that airbnb operates, people who wish can match up with people who need a bed for the night. I like this idea but would want to work through with relevant agencies before implementing it as it may have some fishhooks.

4: Do you support the building of additional council housing and if so how much housing should be built in the next council term?

We currently have around 2000 units and central government has around 2000 units. We are spending over 200 million on maintenance and refurbishment under a deal with central government. This is already a big commitment so enlarging the footprint is not my preference at this stage.

5: Are there other measures you would take to increase the supply of quality rental housing in Wellington?

I think the Council can play a role in ensuring land is available for building and consenting processes are made as efficient as possible. Delays in consents being issued only adds to building costs. There may be other ways that planning regulations can assist and we could look at what options may be available.

6: What do you think are the main reasons rents in Wellington are increasing? How would you ensure rents in Wellington are affordable?

Councils don’t control house prices, interest rates or immigration levels, which all have an impact on house prices and therefore rents. We don’t have rent controls. We can influence land zoning , what can be built there, and the efficiency and cost of our consenting processes. It is a challenge. More intensive planning regulations may allow more and cheaper rooms to be built on a specific piece of land, but others in the community may be opposed to such increased intensity. It is important we get the right balance.

7: Many renters face discrimination on the basis of their gender, family status, age and ethnicity and when trying to find a home in Wellington. What steps would you take to address this?

It is important that all renters are treated by landlords fairly and on the basis of merit rather than gender, family status, age or ethnicity. Profiling of that kind is completely unacceptable. The council can make sure that with its own social housing it treats everybody fairly.

8: Do you support dedicated tenant advocacy services to balance the influence of landlords and rental agents? If so, how should these be funded?

This is a central government activity and there are various, agencies and NGOs that get involved with tenants and landlords.

9: Would you take steps to tackle persistent bad landlords who do not meet their obligations to renters?

Again, see above answer.

10: How would you ensure renting is more stable/secure?

As per earlier answer, the Council does not control the price of housing or rents, however it can have limited impact through its planning regulations and how efficient it is with granting consents.

11: Do you have any other policies that you believe will have a particular impact on improving renting for renters in Wellington?

My ‘Roadmap For Wellington’ includes improving infrastructure such as double tunnelling the Mt Victoria and Terrace Tunnels, having a balanced transport infrastructure between bicycles, cars, buses, more broadband, and helping ensure the city is a vibrant, enjoyable place to live. For more information visit: www.joformayor.co.nz, www.facebook.com/JoCoughlanForMayor and twitter.com/JoForMayor.

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