Warm and dry in a city doer-upper

Otago Property Management managing director Sonia Thom checks on progress at a fully renovated student house in North Dunedin. Photo by Dan Hutchinson
Otago Property Management managing director Sonia Thom checks on progress at a fully renovated student house in North Dunedin. Photo by Dan Hutchinson

Many landlords are doing what they can to improve the state of Dunedin's rental housing stock. Reporter Dan Hutchinson visits a Brook St property that illustrates some of the strides some of the city's property investors are making. 

An old, cold villa in North Dunedin has been turned into what should be a warm, dry model flat for students this year.

Hilary Janninck, the owner of the Brook St house, was originally looking for a property not needing work but ended up with a real ''doer-upper''.

Its only redeeming feature was that it was ''solid''.

Apart from that it was ''extremely cold'' and quite gloomy, she said.

Otago Property Management managing director Sonia Thom said Ms Janninck had done the opposite to what many landlords would do and reduced it from six to five bedrooms.

A window in the kitchen-lounge area was removed and replaced with sliding doors to maximise the light and an extra shower and toilet added.

A complete renovation has resulted in a house with generous-size bedrooms, insulation in the ceiling and exterior walls and in any interior walls opened up during the renovation.

Solar panels on the roof provide electricity to heat air that is then pumped into every room to ensure regular ventilation and warmth in the winter.

Ms Thom said many students dried laundry in their rooms, which resulted in damp, moldy houses.

However, in the Brook St house, students could ''live like vampires'' with their curtains closed all day if they wanted. They could dry their clothes inside and the ventilation system would take care of the moisture.

However, there was a need to educate students about things like that if their flat did not have good ventilation systems.

''Most landlords are good landlords. We need to train students how to live in the property and vent it, dry the washing outside and [open] windows.''

Ms Thom said her company had introduced a warrant of fitness system for its rental properties this month but landlords also needed to consider the type of use their property would get.

''How a house reacts is about how a house is used.''

In the Brook St house, not only has the issue of damp and mould been considered but gas hot water heating had been installed to make sure there was enough hot water for everyone and to keep costs down.

All surfaces in the kitchen - including the walls and ceiling - were hard surfaces that were easy to wash and smoke alarms were wired in, rather than relying on tenants to change batteries.

If people made sure they were providing easy, healthy accommodation for people to live in, they would have no trouble finding tenants, Ms Thom said.

She received inquiries for the Brook St house within half an hour of the ''for rent'' sign going up in the front yard and tenants were signed on well before the renovation was finished.

Other organisations are also trying to lift the quality of housing in Dunedin, including the Dunedin City Council, which is promoting a local Bill to Parliament on minimum housing standards.

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