The thorny is­sue of how to deal with rental slums

Kapi-Mana News - - CONVERSATIONS -

Fix­ing sub­stan­dard hous­ing in Porirua, or any city, is a com­plex is­sue.

Lo­cal coun­cils know where the prob­lems lie, but it’s the Gov­ern­ment that has the power and re­sources to fix it. That sce­nario frus­trates city coun­cil­lors.

Porirua’s lo­cal body rep­re­sen­ta­tives are at the coal­face of our com­mu­nity – they know what’s hap­pen­ing in their neigh­bour­hoods, what peo­ple are talk­ing about, whether per­cep­tions are close to re­al­ity. The coun­cil­lors and mayor Nick Leggett know only too well what the state of hous­ing is in Porirua.

About 58 per cent of the dwellings in the city are pri­vately owned, 18 per cent are pri­vate rentals and 13 per cent are so­cial hous­ing.

With ar­eas such as Whitby and Aotea adding to Porirua’s hous­ing stock, the no­tion that Porirua is dom­i­nated by state houses is not cor­rect.

How­ever, the prob­lem per­sists that many pri­vate rentals and the so­cial hous­ing in the east­ern and western parts of Porirua are sub­stan­dard.

The fam­ily of Solomon Esera - who spoke to us and to the city coun­cil re­cently – grew up with coughs and colds and gen­eral bad health. They be­lieved that was the norm.

It shouldn’t be. There has been some suc­cess with Hous­ing New Zealand, which tends to get ham­mered by the me­dia, but pri­vate land­lords of­ten slip un­der the radar.

The per­cep­tion that lo­cal coun­cils should be bat­tling those ter­ri­ble land­lords who al­low ten­ants to live in un­safe build­ings is in­cor­rect. Coun­cils can use the Health Act and is­sue no­tices against land­lords, but, as was pointed out at Porirua City Coun­cil’s Te Komiti meet­ing last week, that bar has been set ridicu­lously low.

A build­ing has to be vir­tu­ally fall­ing down to be deemed un­safe. The Health Act badly needs up­dat­ing – sec­tions re­lat­ing to hous­ing are more than 50 years old.

Porirua City Coun­cil does not have the re­sources to im­prove hous­ing. Last week it de­clined Mana MPKris Faafoi’s re­quest to draft a lo­cal bill on sub­stan­dard hous­ing that he could take to Par­lia­ment, and kicked a pos­si­ble by­law for touch. Faafoi will have to hope his pri­vate Mem­ber’s Bill is pulled from the hat to take the is­sue for­ward.

It looked as if the coun­cil had copped out. How­ever, clearly coun­cil­lors cared; they just had to ac­cept the re­al­ity that their coun­cil did not have the funds to deal with the is­sue, even though it is crit­i­cal to so many of its res­i­dents.

The most log­i­cal so­lu­tion would be for lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to be em­pow­ered to tackle poor hous­ing. Whether it’s tougher leg­is­la­tion or a bet­ter Health Act with heavy fines for re­cal­ci­trant land­lords, some­thing has to be done, and soon.

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