Renters United asked every candidate in the Pukehīnau/Lambton Ward 14 questions about the issues that most concern renters in Wellington. Here are Tamatha Paul responses in full. Compare Tamatha with other candidates.
How will you ensure all council owned and/or managed housing is safe, warm and dry?
By ensuring that the operational side of the Wellington City Council are accountable to basic standards of living in all social housing. In my view, having safe, warm and dry housing should be the base standard for all landlords and property managers. People seem to be really happy with the Fixit App where people can report issues directly to the Wellington City Council in regard to any service the Council offers. I think the more flexibility we have around entry points for reporting will ensure that our services are accessible and top quality.
I would prioritise the experiences of our vulnerable communities to make sure that we are serving them and empowering them to live lives full of integrity and support. I would also support the Housing Upgrade Programme which will ensure that council housing is warm, safe and dry and conducive to community connection.
What actions would you take to improve the quality of private rental housing in Wellington?
I am a member of the Tenancy Advocacy Network as a representative for tertiary students so I feel I have really good connections in the rental advocacy network here in Wellington, which will enable me to have a good understanding of areas needing advocacy, campaigning and lobbying. An example of this was leading the student campaign for a Rental Warrant of Fitness at Wellington City Council. Although the uptake of the scheme was minimal, it still sparked essential conversations around standards of living in rentals thus making the Healthy Homes Standards easier to get through by shifting the Overton Window of what is politically possible.
For Healthy Homes Standards to be effective, I think local bodies like City Council will need to take a role in monitoring and enforcing these standards which would also require increased collaborating between local and central government.
Security of tenure:
How will you ensure all council tenants have security of tenure?
Had a good look around the Social Housing part of the Council’s website around tenure and was unable to find anything. I strongly support renters feeling at home in their rental properties seeing as a large part of our society have been locked out of any prospect of ever owning a home – including myself, probably. A big part of feeling “at home” is knowing that you won’t just get booted out, so I strongly support provisions that protect renters from arbitrary or abrupt eviction, and guarantees them security of tenure.
What actions would you take to improve stability and security for private renters?
I would continue to advocate for provisions and protections within the Residential Tenancies Act which promotes the wellbeing and security of renters. I would also continue to listen to, advocate for and support the views of rental advocacy groups like Renters United and the Tenancy Advocacy Network.
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)?
I would set that target if it was viable and if I was given information that supported this target as possible and beneficial for our Cities renters. We don’t want KiwiBuild part II.
How many new houses do you think the City Council should be building annually (above and beyond the private sector)?
As many as possible so long as they are up to scratch with the Healthy Homes Standards and with other seismic requirements. Without having Council experience, I think it is hard to be able to put a figure to this, but I do think the Council is missing the opportunity to work with the Tertiary Education Providers of this City who provide large-scale, decent accommodation to thousands of newcomers to the City every single year including thousands of beds in the inner city (my Ward).
What are your other ideas for addressing the housing shortage and how would you make those a Council priority?
I think we need increased collaboration between the Universities and the Council to make sure that the University can create more accommodation for the 20,000+ students they bring into the City every day, considering that tertiary students are one of the biggest groups at the bottom of the pile when it comes to rentals in Wellington, if we can work with the University to increase dedicated supply for this group, we can free up more of the general supply for other renting cohorts like young professionals and families.
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?
Yes, mostly more resources from Central government, especially to house our cities’ homeless people.
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?
Yes, I would support this initiative because the monitoring aspect of housing quality laws, alongside enforcement, are imperative to the standards succeeding. This could include organisations that currently already provide tenancy advocacy to renters such as Citizens Advice Bureau, Community Law or Renters United.
Do you think that Council should play a greater role in enforcing the standards?
Yes, it would probably take awhile to develop a safe and effective enforcement mechanism as it would likely encroaches on peoples’ private lives through going through their homes (obviously consensually, but there would still be significant risk involved), and we know that renters might not want to voluntarily come forward out of fear for unfair eviction, so we would have to find a way for this mechanism to differ from the Tenancy Tribunal.
What other actions would you take to improve the quality of rental housing in Wellington?
This isn’t strictly to do with renting in Wellington, but I do think there are things within the RTA and the Tenancy Tribunal process that need to be amended in order to protect renters rights, such as having an option for anonymity at the Tribunal level, as well as amendments to the RTA around security of tenure, and tighter regulations around boarding houses.
Would you fund a dedicated tenants’ advocacy service?
It would depend on what the service offered outside of Council-funded services like Citizens Advice Bureau or other advocacy and rights education services like Community Law Wellington. I would definitely fund and support the infrastructure needed to keep the Tenancy Advocacy Network running strong, but I would need more details around the dedicated tenants’ advocacy service before agreeing to fund it.
What else do you think Council should do to address power imbalance between landlords and tenants?
I personally feel that addressing the power imbalance between landlords and tenants requires overhaul at a national level rather than solely at a local level. I think having a renter at the council decision-making table is a good place to start.
Do you have any other ideas or plans relevant to renters that you would like to share?
About the author:
In: Election 2019. .