Eastern ward candidate Sarah Free answers Renters United’s questions

September 15, 2016 8:09 pm

Renters United asked every candidate for the Eastern ward 11 questions about the issues that most concern renters in Wellington. Here are Sarah Free’s responses in full. Compare Sarah 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 I fully support the rental WOF. Current legislation may mean it has to be voluntary at first, but even if it is voluntary, having a list of landlords who have signed up publicly available could be a powerful tool. I am concerned to make all Wellington housing warm and dry and will look for ways to promote that through a mix of regulation and incentives, including incentives for landlords. I’ll also help lobby the Government to allow compulsory rental WOFs.

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

We’ve worked hard to improve our own rental housing with substantial upgrades to ensure our Council flats and houses are insulated, well ventilated and have double glazing and/or curtaining. We’ve also tried to provide secure outdoor areas for people to dry laundry, helping avoid dampness inside. Our Council housing has won various awards- we are demonstrating our own commitment to this issue and lifting the benchmark for others. WCC also supports services like curtain banks, insulation, and energy efficiency advice for rentals.

3: How would you address homelessness in Wellington?

We have put more funding towards Te Mahana, our integrated multi-agency approach to end homelessness. There’s no quick fix, but we do have council housing so we can use that to help, and I would like us to build more. We need targeted services to help with the core social issues that underline homelessness, such as dealing with addiction and mental health issues, low wages, family violence, lack of life skills and lack of suitable employment. I have successfully moved an amendment to reduce the number of Pokie machines allowed in Wellington and voted for the Living Wage. I will support work towards establishing a Wet House and a women’s Night Shelter.

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. It’s hard to quantify numbers but I would like to see us build mixed developments with some social housing, a lot more affordable first homes, and also some transitional housing in Council ownership, but which can be made available to people at low rents for a fixed time period while they are saving for their first home.

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

I would try to work collaboratively with Housing New Zealand, both to lift the standard of their housing and to see if we could persuade them to partner with us to build more Housing New Zealand Homes, or to make more effective use of the land there to build more Council homes. I’d also like to see central government allow income related rents to be applied to council housing, to put the two on a more level playing field.

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

I guess it is supply and demand, so the simple answer is we need more housing. Council can’t build it all, so it’s also about setting the right conditions for the private sector to build more homes, and making sure they are in the right locations, are the right size and are good quality, warm dry and energy-efficient and durable homes that people will enjoy living in.

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 city must be inclusive, and that means welcoming all sorts of people from different personal circumstances and at different stages of life. Tenants need to pay the rent and look after the property- as long as they do that it shouldn’t matter what their personal circumstances are. I believe WCC leads by example in setting an inclusive culture in the City — and there are also Central Government laws preventing open discrimination.

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

Of course. But these services already exist and are funded by Central Government. WCC also has services in-house for its own tenants.

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

I’m always happy to listen to residents’ concerns., and to see what can be done. We can take some action if the property is dangerous or unsanitary. We also have the Citizens Advice Service available at some of our libraries and Community Centres, if people want some legal advice or other assistance.

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

Central government needs to take some responsibility here because there’s only so much Council can do. The Green Party has a Bill before parliament that would address this, see more at https://www.greens.org.nz/policy/fairer-society/residential-tenancies-safe-and-secure-rentals-amendment-bill

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

As a Green Party candidate, I support the Greens’ extensive housing policies including around better security of tenure, transparent rent setting, and making renting more family and disability friendly. I’m a strong supporter of a compulsory rental warrant of fitness for rental housing.

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