Yesterday, Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association President, Jonathan Gee, and Welfare Vice President, Rory Lenihan-Ikin, gave an oral submission, supporting an earlier written submission to the Social Services Select Committee on the Government’s Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill.
While Gee and Lenihan-Ikin stated that the proposed changes were well-intentioned, they provided three key recommendations to strengthen the Bill, namely ventilation, heating and greater enforcement.
Lenihan-Ikin outlined the need to extend the proposed minimum housing standard to ventilation and heating, and gave recent examples submitted by students, outlining how their poor living conditions had negatively impacted their health and wellbeing.
‘Unless heating is a requirement, the proposed insulation will have little effect. And unless the mould crisis is addressed with some proper ventilation, our students will continue to suffer lifelong illnesses caused by the conditions in their flats,’ advised Lenihan-Ikin.
Gee provided the Committee with a recent photo of a student flat, which gave evidence of the mouldy, lived conditions that many students are accustomed to.
‘This photo is not an extreme living condition, but the norm for many students particularly in locations where the demand for flats is high,’ said Gee.
Gee welcomed the amendment to allow the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to act as tenant at the Tenancy Tribunal, however expressed that this should be extended to representative groups such as students’ associations.
‘There's a power imbalance between students and landlords when students represent themselves against landlords,’ said Gee.
‘Many students’ associations know what rental properties might not be up to standard. By allowing them to act as tenant, the focus is on getting the house up to standard, not on disputes between a tenant and a landlord.
This will ensure student flats are more liveable.’
Gee was adamant the principle of the Bill was a step in the right direction; and that the aim was to for a more meaningful change to the state of rental housing.
‘Our job is not just to say houses should be warmer, drier and safer. It's about actually making rental housing better. This is the issue.’
VUWSA has campaigned for the introduction of a rental-housing Warrant of Fitness (WoF) for several years to improve housing conditions for students.
Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association (VUWSA) is a student-run, student-led organisation, independent from Victoria University. From representing students’ interests at all levels of university, through to providing services, events and support, we help make sure Victoria University students’ experience is the best it can be. We exist for a better Victoria University and a better Wellington City.
Find out more about what we do: www.vuwsa.org.nz
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