Renters United asked every candidate for Mayor 11 questions about the issues that most concern renters in Wellington. Here are Justin Lester’s responses in full. Compare Justin 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?
Yes, absolutely. I would seek to introduce a Rental WOF through a local bill in Parliament to make it compulsory for Wellington. I will also draft a supportive submission on the Private Member’s Bill being introduced through Parliament introducing a Healthy Homes Guarantee. This would be a very good start.
2: Are there any other steps you would you do to improve the health, quality and safety of rental homes in Wellington?
I would continue investment for the Sustainability Trust and its insulation, energy efficiency and Warm Fuzzies programmes. The Trust does a great job educating landlords and tenants about ways to improve energy efficiency and create warm, dry home and needs continued support.
3: How would you address homelessness in Wellington?
There is no silver bullet to address homelessness, but it comes down to good support, finding a home for affected individuals and reliable income.
I have supported and will continue to support the Wellington Night Shelter, which was at risk of closing. I would continue to support the Te Mahana strategy, which is a whole of sector approach to reducing homeless involving multiple Government and Local Government organisations, NGOs and social agencies.
I will continue to financially support the Downtown Community Ministry, Wellington City Mission, the Soup Kitchen and the multiple other organisations that provide outreach services and I will ensure Wellington City Council’s Local Host Ambassadors also play an important role in looking after people living on the streets in getting them into accommodation.
4: Do you support the building of additional council housing and if so how much housing should be built in the next council term?
My first commitment will be to the WCC’s housing upgrade, where the Kotuku and Arlington apartments are currently being upgraded and in future the remaining WCC social housing units to ensure they are warm and dry.
Secondly, I will work with community housing providers to help them acquire and build more affordable homes.
Thirdly, I think there’s a role for central and local government to play in building new homes. I want to see Council’s forthcoming Urban Development Agency build residential homes, potentially in partnership with the community housing sector and private partnerships.
There is a long lead in time for consenting and subsequent construction so I am realistic that it may take 2-3 years before houses are able to be built. Currently Wellington constructs about 900-1000 new homes a year. I’d like to see a 10% increase through Council initiatives.
5: Are there other measures you would take to increase the supply of quality rental housing in Wellington?
I would work with Victoria and Massey Universities to introduce a housing ‘Rate my Rental’ app that rates rental housing for quality, price and liveability.
6: What do you think are the main reasons rents in Wellington are increasing? How would you ensure rents in Wellington are affordable?
There are not enough houses and apartments for an increasing population of renters. More need to be built and as a society we need to make sure home ownership remains attainable.
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?
The Tenancy Tribunal needs to be empowered to deal with discrimination of any form. I lived in a state house as a child and I know first hand it was very difficult for my mother to find stable accommodation because she couldn’t afford private rental accommodation. The best way I could help to address this would be through the provision of more affordable and social housing. I want to establish an urban development agency that creates more council housing and works with Housing New Zealand and community housing providers to do the same.
8: Do you support dedicated tenant advocacy services to balance the influence of landlords and rental agents? If so, how should these be funded?
I do and believe they need to be funded by Central Government (MBIE) to ensure the housing system and rental accommodation provision is balanced. I would also use my proposed ‘Rate my Rental’ app to make information about rental houses more transparent.
This would work like Trade Me where consumers are able to rate one another and vice versa.
9: Would you take steps to tackle persistent bad landlords who do not meet their obligations to renters?
This is primarily with the realm of the Tenancy Tribunal, but I believe a simple measure like my proposed ‘Rate my Rental’ app would make information about rental houses more transparent and expose poor landlords.
10: How would you ensure renting is more stable/secure?
The two initiatives I mentioned above:
- More housing construction and the provision of rental accommodation
- More transparency about the quality of rental accommodation, which could be made public via a ‘Rate my Rental’ app.
11: Do you have any other policies that you believe will have a particular impact on improving renting for renters in Wellington?
I have described my ideas above about how we need more housing in Wellington and how we could achieve this by creating more supply by central and local government construction. Transparency of information is also very important and a ‘Rate my Rental’ app would hep to ensure this.
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