Candidate Teri O’Neill answers Renters United’s questions

October 1, 2019 10:08 pm

Renters United asked every candidate in the Motukairangi/Eastern Ward 14 questions about the issues that most concern renters in Wellington. Here are Teri O’Neill’s responses in full. Compare Teri with other candidates.

Housing quality:

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

Increase the speed at which the current ‘WCC council housing upgrade’ is taking. this should be prioritized long long ago. we need to Fully fund the current council WOF scheme and make it more accessible for council tenants to raise issues. while the upgrade is going on we need to make sure any existing tenants are not displaced, ensuring warm dry, safe and affordable accommodation is provided too.

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

Commit to funding ‘on the streets’ ‘roaming’ or 1 on 1′ tenant advocacy services. Broader – we need to take a look at the CAB and community law services we believe council is funding and look at the output of more specialised rent services. we know MBIe has funded 2K homes for a random checks against the new healthy homes standards. It would be great if we can inject some of this money locally to ensure landlords are being held accountable and the services we have are becoming more accessible.

Security of tenure: 

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

Increase
alcohol and drug support services. We know that those often relying on council support often need a compassionate approach to supportive tenure. I’m not talking a jup up the ladder runs ‘financial literacy and smart renting service courses that WINZ impose, I’m talking a more understanding, shame free council front that help support tenants in external struggles going on in their life. We know Wellington Has a homlessness issue in our city – and the council’s current ‘housing first and housing only’ approach
to people affected by the issues often isn’t enough.There is a review of City Housing policies underway at the moment which will include any other issues surrounding tenure I’d love to see people trained in a different way that issues a compassionate approach for those struggling – alongside supporting city safety initiatives and community housing spaces.

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

No answer.

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)?

Absolutely, Brian (current portfolio holder) tells me this is a Huge cost in a short period of time – so i’d be looking to the Govt , like with projects similar to LGWM – making housing a top ask.

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

We know WCC has already a 6,000 housing deficit in our city. I Can’t give you a solid answer but i’d love to see WCC aim high. Re the imline of this, it’s Important to note – counting process’ need to be far more accessible , but I don’t support the National Govts SHAA policy that scraps often essential community engagement. For me – I’d be great for more community co housing and anti-loneliness standards are implemented so that when high density smart housing is being built – communities aren’t shell-shocked.

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

Change the district plan to allow for more developments that meet WOF, Eco and access standards to be built higher particularly in dense and CBD areas. We know between 50-80K will be moving into wellington over the next 10 years. It would be great to see the district plan that reflects a high density housing vision for our already urban centres.

Along with my background as a climate activist – i’d love to see sustainable, accessible and safe growth from our Councils housing in urban centres.

Expanding the apartment conversion scheme. Making consenting processes easier and cheaper. Providing rates and levies incentives for those building affordable housing.

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!

Councils committed to enforcing the healthy homes standards to around 2K homes , but thats far less than enough. Consitientitly all throughout nz people are getting sick – they’re struggling to cope and none of us have access to taking our landlords to tribunals etc.

I’d love to see Central govt take stronger action in implementing their own regulations – as well as supporting Major housing providers of local govt – such as WCC to be able to build more ambitious numbers of homes to suit demand. ESP love to see GOVT partnering on housing projects and extending Income Related Rents Subsidies to Council tenants. (we should have social development and Housing asks in the budget going hand in hand).

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.

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

Yes, see: as explained earlier.

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

Heaps; as explained earlier! Extending the current home insulation and heating schemes through GWRC to include other remedial work would be helpful. I am keen to explore an incentive for those achieving above Healthy Homes standards. Govt and local partnership, enforcement of Healthy homes, WOF policys etc.

Would you fund a dedicated tenants’ advocacy service?

Yep – would love to evaluate CAB and community law services currently who do great work and are funded to do this job atm – and look at a specialized team at council to case manage output and progress. Included fully funid specific people at these services because we know these two sports aren’t currently meeting the needs of renters.

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

Support personas for rental tenancies act and healthy homes claimants. I’ve been put in this legal spot before and found it really really hard to cope as a student making a claim to the tribunal. For me – it would have been really nice to have a wellness focused, mental health focussed person to help me and my flatmates though, in addition to some accessible legal help so that I was able to be on an even footing.

Providing legal support to claimants. And ensuring privacy so that tenants can find future homes after making claims. Even in my own experience I’ve been denied flat placements for speaking up about my landlord in the past in the news. People speaking up shouldn’t be penalised.

Like we have ask an experts for essay writing, local JPs at the library – i’d be great to have something like this for renters to turn to so we can get a legal option when people start acting up too.

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

A focus on long term security of tenure, a home free of abuse and manipulation and emergency to long term assistance in getting into homes. This is particularly a large one for me. I’ve spent some time at DCM – and a lot of time at the masque and around a lot of refugee resettlement centres. This in in junction with churches and marae who help people get into long term stable homes. I’d love to see a specific plan development with council and community groups in the like targeting those most likely taken advantage of in our rental market.

I know first hand what its like to grow up in homes that affected my health.even as a kid i recall the hospital trip with my brother because the mould in the wall was making him sick. For so many families this is not a unique story. I will do everything in my power to ensure as an activist, community members and if elected I will try my hardest to fix the rental and homelessness crisis.

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