Bennett: ‘I’m an advocate’ for Warrant of Fitness on private rental housing.
"More important would be a WOF of the people who rent"Featured comment
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has told TV ONE’s Q+A programme that she supports the introduction of Warrant of Fitness on private rentals requiring them to be warm, dry and safe in an effort to reduce the effects of child poverty.
She told host Susan Wood that she sees the benefits of such a system but says it’s not up to her but up to Cabinet and in particular Housing Minister Nick Smith about whether to introduce that. Earlier this year, Mr Smith introduced a base standard for state house rentals.
“I see absolute merits in there being a base standard for homes,” Ms Bennett says. “But I think we need to be careful in how we implement something like that. It’s the same with the accommodation supplement. If we look at increases there, often the effect is it’s not going into the individual’s pocket or that vulnerable family; it’s going into the pockets of the landlord.”
She estimates there are between 150,000 and 270,000 children living in poverty in New Zealand but says New Zealand has “one of the most generous welfare systems in the world”.
But Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills says a WOF for all housing rentals is essential.
“The patients that I see typically have cold, damp houses, they can’t afford to go to the GP, they often can’t afford to do the basics that our kids would take for granted, like to go on school trips and have stationery and a uniform, shoes that fit. You know, their houses really are in a shocking state. Most kids who are living in poverty live in private rentals, not state rentals but private rentals, and those houses are in appalling state. So having a warrant of fitness again is one of those very practical recommendations that the Expert Advisory Group recommended. We’re going to see that in state housing first, and then we need to see it in private rentals too. We know that will make a big difference,” he says.
Mr Wills says he doesn’t think New Zealand can end child poverty, “but we can bring it back to the kind of levels that were there when you and I were kids,” he told Ms Wood.
Conservative Party CEO and former head of Work and Income NZ Christine Rankin says it is dysfunction not poverty that creates problems and that more money is not the answer.
“Where there is poverty, it’s because people cannot cope, they don't have life skills, they don't have the day-to-day skills that most of us have to survive through the difficult times, and that's what we've got to invest our money in,” Ms Rankin says.