It is good that a tool to assess whether rental
properties will pass or fail a housing warrant of fitness will
be tested to expose its flaws, but she will not be volunteering
to take part, rental-property owner and Dunedin city councillor
Hilary Calvert says.
Council staff and Mayor Dave Cull also have reservations
about the test, but said it was the only way to determine
whether the assessment tool developed was practical.
The tool, a warrant of fitness (Wof) checklist to be filled
in by a trained assessor - in Dunedin's case assessors from
outside the council - will be tested on 25 Dunedin rental
properties in January and February.
The location of the properties will not be made public, nor
will the results have any ramifications for owners, but the
information will be fed back to a national group, including
several major councils, which is developing a national
standard for housing.
In a report to the DCC, council staff said their reservations
included the pass/fail nature of the test - specifically what
constituted a fail.
They said many Dunedin rental properties would likely fail
the Wof in its present form and identified at least 10
criteria rentals might fail on.
The voluntary nature of the Wof was less likely to capture
substandard housing and a phased process would be more
realistic than the proposed enforcement method of allowing a
period for items to be remedied before reassessment.
Policy analyst Anne Gray and events and community developer
manager Rebecca Williams said the concerns had been raised
with the national group and the feeling there was that such
concerns were ''the very reason the field test should go
ahead as it, in itself, would help define the ultimate
Concerns were expected to be highlighted during the Wof test
phase and approaches reviewed.
They noted housing in other areas of the country taking part
in the test could also potentially fail and that they did not
expect Dunedin results to stand out from other cities'.
However, Cr Calvert said the fact the test was being done,
even though it was acknowledged it was flawed, would not
inspire confidence in landlords, and would get even less
buy-in if it continued to be ''fiddled with'' as time went
Although she applauded the desire to ensure Dunedin homes
were warm and dry, she did not believe the rental Wof was the
best way to achieve that.
The idea of assessing properties was good, but the fail/pass
concept would discourage landlords and the level of detail in
the 31 criteria of the present test went too far. It was
''nonsense'' if the goal was simply to ensure rental
properties were warm and dry.
''I think this is a case where perfect is the enemy of
Although it was good the assessment tool was being tested to
highlight flaws, the council had to return to a focus on
making houses dry and warm and felt an A to D rating system
would be more encouraging for landlords.
''If you keep the rules light and add inspiration to achieve
at a higher level, then you achieve much more with people.
People will voluntarily do things they would never want to do
if you come at them with a big stick.''
If landlords did all the things the Wof required, it would be
at the expense of things they really needed to do to make
houses warm and dry, she said.
The Wof would cost a lot to administer and, if not legislated
for, would leave the council open to risk from challenges
As the owner of some student housing in Dunedin, Cr Calvert
would not volunteer to be part of the trial because the test
was so flawed.
Mrs Williams said staff were confident they would find
landlords to take part in the field test, and had a first
meeting with landlords yesterday. She said testing the test
was an early step in a long process.
Mr Cull said he started pushing a year ago for something to
happen in Dunedin about minimum standards for insulation,
heating and weather-tightness in rental housing because it
was affecting the city's economy and community.
He said there was a possibility Cr Calvert's concerns were
justified, but the tool had to be tested before the council
jumped to any conclusions about it and
there was no guarantee the council would choose the Wof
option. As a student accommodation owner, he would be
comfortable with his flats undergoing assessment.