21 Nov 2022

Healthy Homes deadline extension under 'active consideration'

8:47 am on 21 November 2022
State houses in Northcote

State landlord Kāinga Ora is set to miss its own deadline of 1 July 2023 for its properties to meet the Healthy Homes standards. Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

The government has confirmed it is considering extending the deadline for landlords to comply with its Healthy Homes standards.

It acknowledged supply-chain issues and labour shortages caused by Covid had put the pressure on landlords to comply in time.

And the government's not immune from the challenge, with the state landlord Kāinga Ora also set to miss its own deadline.

Introduced in 2019, the Healthy Homes standards ensure rental properties meet minimum levels of heating, insulation, and ventilation.

The deadline for Kāinga Ora to meet those requirements is 1 July 2023.

A total of 84 percent of Kainga Ora homes either meet the standards, or have work in progress to meet them, while 68 percent of the 65,000 properties are already up to code.

This still leaves Kāinga Ora off-track.

The ACT Party claimed it was leaked information the government would extend Kāinga Ora's deadline, and raised the matter in the House last Thursday.

"Is she confident that Kāinga Ora will meet its deadline of 1 July 2023 for complying with the healthy homes standards, and can she confirm that the government will not give Kāinga Ora an extension to its deadline?" asked ACT's deputy leader Brooke van Velden.

Stepping in for the Housing Minister Megan Woods, Carmel Sepuloni hinted it was not just Kāinga Ora's deadline being considered.

"We've heard from landlords that there have been challenges across the sector in complying with the healthy homes standards," she said.

It has now been confirmed extending the deadline for all landlords is under "active consideration."

The culprit: Covid.

"Covid-19 did create delays with labour shortages, issues accessing tenants' homes, and supply chain problems for products like heat pumps and insulation materials. We want to be pragmatic about our response to this, but that is currently under active Cabinet consideration, and so I cannot pre-empt a Cabinet decision," Sepuloni said.

Private rentals currently have until 1 July 2024 to meet the minimum standards, but since last year, have had to do so within 90 days of any new or renewed tenancy.

The Auckland Property Investors Association (APIA) said many landlords were already meeting the standards because of this, and those yet to do so were not asking for an extension.

"The majority of them have already had to deal with all of the issues the government is now saying are challenging. And they have got their properties up to standard. So the majority of private landlords are complying with the legislation already, as they've had to do from the first of July 2021.

"It just seems to be now that the government needs to comply, that there's going to be change of rules," APIA president Kristin Sutherland said.

Green Party renters' rights spokesperson Chlöe Swarbrick said an extension would mean the government had chosen landlords over tenants.

"I think that it's really important that we put focus on just exactly who suffers as a result of kicking the can down the road, and the very reason that these Healthy Homes standards were implemented in the first place. If something's not working, then it's time to change the system to something more like a Warrant of Fitness," she said.

ACT leader David Seymour claimed the government had made a policy donut, and one ACT scared the government into making.

"Since ACT put it on the agenda by blowing their cover in Parliament last week, I think they've tried to sweeten the deal by saying everyone gets an exemption. That wasn't initially their plan, we understand from a usually very reliable source that gave us the original information," Seymour said.

A spokesperson for the Housing Minister said that was not the case, and the extension had been under consideration for some time.

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