Govt to test Wof scheme on state houses

A  warrant of Fitness scheme will be trialled on state homes in Otago and Southland, Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith announced yesterday.

But Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford said his housing Bill would make more people drier and warmer.

Dr Smith said 500 state homes - including 20 homes in Otago and 20 in Southland - would have their insulation, ventilation, roofing and cladding, smoke alarms, handrails, power points and kitchen and bathroom functioning checked by July.

The cost of fixing any deficiencies would be revealed later this year and it would then be determined whether the benefits of the Wof standard exceeded the costs.

A wider application of the scheme to other social housing providers or the private rental market had not been discussed, Dr Smith said.

''We want to be sure it is practical and cost-effective before we consider applying it in the private sector.''

Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford said Dr Smith was refusing to tackle the problem of unfit private rental houses.

''Most poor people live in private rentals. Only 4% of Kiwis live in state houses.''

Many of the children living in ''damp and cold'' private rental houses were sick, he said.

Mr Twyford said the Government should support his Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill to set minimum standards for insulation and efficient heating for all rental properties, including the private sector, Dr Smith said he would not support the Bill, because it had a ''glaring flaw''.

''It would effectively banish tens of thousands of homes from being able to be rented.''

If landlords did not meet the Bill's requirements in a week, then the rental property could not be tenanted, he said.

''It would be impossible for landlords to meet that timetable.''

The Bill would result in a greater housing shortage, Dr Smith said.

Mr Twyford said Dr Smith's statement was ''ridiculous''.

''It [the Bill] is phased in over a five-year period. Only when a new tenancy agreement is signed does a landlord have to certify that the property meets the standards.''

shawn.mcavinue@odt.co.nz

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