Candidate Laurie Foon answers Renters United’s questions

October 1, 2019 8:25 am

Renters United asked every candidate in the Paekawakawa/Southern Ward 14 questions about the issues that most concern renters in Wellington. Here are Laurie Foon responses in full. Compare Laurie with other candidates.

Housing quality:

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

Understand clearly what processes are already in place and what is needed to improve them.

Undertake regular assessments and have budget allocated to maintain all properties.

Make sure any new builds reach environmental standards of warm dry homes, design safety as a criteria.

Support the Sustainability Trust’s partnership with the Council, to enable the work of the curtain bank and assist in home insulation.

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

Understand clearly what processes are already in place and what is needed to improve them.

Maintain subsidies and support for the Sustainability Trusts insulation and curtain bank programme.

Support the advocacy for landlords to be proud of up keeping their properties to become a good landlord.

Look into a way to create a landlord register and support central government to encourage a license to operate.

Look at what has worked overseas to build a stable rental culture.

Security of tenure: 

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

A good relationship requires a healthy tenancy, and this need to be worked on by both parties. I am in favour of long term tenure and understanding each case individually, for example families that have children in schools, supporting the elderly with stability, and making sure there is an appropriate notice period when asking people to move out so they can get the support they need.

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

I will support council with creative initiatives like Te Kainga and help make them successful.

This shows developers that the council is up for partnerships that help solve the crisis and help supply for a diverse range of needs.

I would also support initiatives to incentivise developers to create floors for rentals.

I am in favour of finding a way to support landlords with long term tenancies, we then are in the situation for both parties to improve their properties as there is value for both tenant and landlord.

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.

Would you set a target for Council to double its housing portfolio by 2024 (from approximately 2,000 units to 4,000)?

This is optimum but this needs to be supported by the private market as well as council. I would support initiatives like creating more zones for affordable housing with ‘build to buy’ and ‘build to rent’ models. I would like to see council do more to support co-housing models (using fewer resources for better social outcomes) and using office stock for homes if available. We need to better optimise our existing space.

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

I am proud that the Council is Wellington’s largest provider of affordable rental housing.

I think we should be committing to building more homes if they are future fit for purpose for a low carbon future. But as above we need to be more creative about supporting other ways to get homes being built like the Te Kainga project. Building materials are expensive but we are also wasting masses of materials at landfill – what research has been done on a cost analysis to reuse what we have – ie polystyrene bricks or plastic bricks for insulation. Have we explored a tiny home pop up village? Where are there spaces on residential land that could support pop-up homes?

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

I’d like to see more creative use of private dwellings, especially being able to build on top of garages, while incentivising car share or EV charging, or shared bike parking in garages below.

I’d like to encourage more co housing models – doing more with less as facilities are shared.

And have we explored temporary pop up tiny home villages instead of car parks?

Are there ways that we can support people living in big houses to benefit from live in student support. Is there an app for that?

I think we have the opportunity to use the expertise already in Wellington to find other creative ways we can make it easy to increase and improve the housing stock. One idea is to run a ‘Challenge’ similar to the Zero Carbon Challenge, and bring developers, university students and other interested parties into solving this problem together.

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 would be open to all ideas that would help stabilize the market to give confidence to renters.

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.

Would you support and fund Council proactively inspecting rental homes?

I think the Rental WOF was a good first step, and I understand it’s part of a larger plan. But it’s clear not many landlords have taken up the offer of voluntarily signing up for it, and meanwhile we still have an issue with cold drafty homes affecting people’s health, as we saw in the University of Otago research. So I would say more needs to be done.

In addition, I would like to see Wellington’s housing stock at a good standard which uses less resources, in order to meet our Zero Carbon Goals. Healthy homes have an impact on our people and our environment.

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

As above – I do think more needs to be done, and I would be interested in looking further into this if elected.

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

Maintain the support for the Sustainability Trust service for warm dry homes

Set a new standard with new builds so that they meet a reasonable environmental efficiency standard, for the health of our people and our environment. meet our zero carbon goals.

Would you fund a dedicated tenants’ advocacy service?

I would seek to understand the difference between this and the tenancy tribunal, and what WCC could provide that would help renters get a fairer deal.

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

I think Renters United are doing a great job of advocacy understanding the pressures for renters- thank you for your work. I think WCC should support your work – but it is a shame they have to. We need a balanced solution for the market, and more stock will ease the pressure and the rents so we need to be more creative about how we do this.

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

I am happy with the higher density living plan that the council are moving with, but we must make sure all new builds integrate water sensitive design, green roofs, energy efficiency, recharging for EV’s and bike storage.
And balance this with regenerative green spaces that support connection to nature, community wellbeing and urban biodiversity.

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