Mayoral candidate Keith Johnson answers Renters United’s questions

August 28, 2016 10:25 am

Renters United asked every candidate for Mayor 11 questions about the issues that most concern renters in Wellington. Here are Keith Johnson’s responses in full. Compare Keith 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?

I support the introduction of a rental WOF system – there are far too many dreadfully maintained properties and exploitative landlords around and the evidence linking poor quality damp housing with bad health (especially among children) is incontrovertible.

In results from a WSM Healthy Housing WOF pre-test, of 144 houses that were assessed, only eight (6%) passed the WOF.

The top five reasons for failing the rental housing WOF checklist ∙ 40% of houses did not pass the water temperature check. ∙ 38% of houses did not pass the security stays check. ∙ 37% of houses did not pass the check for having a fixed form of heating. ∙ 31% of houses did not pass the check for having handrails or balustrades that meet the Building Code Standards. ∙ 30% of houses did not pass the check for not having working smoke alarms.

The Report noted that introduction was feasible with inspections costing $200 – $300 per house, and would be unlikely to raise rents or reduce supply, but noted the need for training programmes for assessors.

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

Not at present but I am open to suggestions.

3: How would you address homelessness in Wellington?

We have lost 110 – 120 flats which used to be available with the red-stickering of HNZ’s Gordon Wilson Flats. The Council must make good this shortfall (hopefully with help from Central Government). This would be a good way of using the $90 million that would be saved by NOT contributing ratepayer cash to the private sector for the Wellington Airport Runway Extension project.

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

Yes – see above.

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

We need to increase the supply of Affordable and Social Housing in general. I would like to see Development Contributions for Social Housing used selectively for large-scale developments (e.g. development of the Mt Crawford – Shelly Bay sites).

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

Inadequate supply is clearly a factor in the cost of housing in general and making more land available for development through improved physical planning is needed. We need a two-pronged approach which first aims to encourage home ownership – and we need to foster mixed rent-to-own approaches delivered through Housing Associations.

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?

Any kind of discrimination is unacceptable – offenders should be named and shamed.

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 would certainly give these kinds of suggestions a sympathetic hearing and ask for advice on them.

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

With a WOF system in place, offending landlords could be barred (just as cars cannot be sold or leased out without WOF coverage).

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

Again, the WOF system would do much to help.

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

Over the long-run, we need to stop the slide in home ownership which is being encouraged by the tax breaks that can be accessed by multi-property owners – but this is a long-standing national problem. One way WCC might be able to help is in assisting Older People in relocating from single-family homes to more suitable accommodation, thereby releasing housing to first-time and collective buyers.

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