The membership of the Wellington Regional Healthy Housing Group is diverse and covers many different sectors. We recognise that by working together we will get more people in cold, damp and unsafe housing into warm, dry, safe homes faster. We seek collaborative and creative solutions.
Our members work across community and whānau level service provision and support, regulation (eg. consents, LIMs, zoning), financial assistance for homeowners and renters, research and knowledge-sharing, advocacy, legislation and funding, Through our website and social media, Steering Group and Working Group meetings and the relationships formed via these, as well as the connecting and coordination role of the group’s Executive Officer, our members are able to connect and amplify their work, find new creative solutions and exchange experiences and examples.
Well Homes; housing upgrade services; financial support for housing upgrades; independent and obligation-free assessments; tips, advice & practical help; enough homes, affordable homes; benchmark standards; regulatory powers; research & documenting of evidence]
Well Homes is a housing coordination service for the Wellington bringing together four WRHHG members in partnership to support whānau to live in a warm, dry and safe home. Referrals to the service come via Māori and Pacific Health Services, doctors, nurses and social workers, as well as self-referrals. Well Homes is one of nine Healthy Housing Initiatives delivered under the Ministry of Health’s Rheumatic Fever Prevention programme. The partnership includes Regional Public Health, Tu Kotahi Māori Asthma Foundation, Sustainability Trust and He Kainga Oranga (Otago University). Find out about Well Homes here.
Housing Upgrade Services
There are approximately 170,000 houses in the Wellington Region, and research indicates more than half of them are mouldy and damp. Housing upgrade services are an essential element of realising the Group’s vision. Sustainability Trust, Ryhaven Trust and Habitat for Humanity are members who provide housing upgrade services.
Financial Support for Housing Upgrade Work
Other Group members are involved in providing financial support for housing upgrade work. EECA manages the government’s Warmer Kiwi Homes programme that provides subsidies covering up to 90% of the cost of retrofitting insulation and heating in owner-occupied homes in lower decile areas or of Community Services Card holders. Greater Wellington Regional Council provides low-interest loans through it’s Warm Wellington Voluntary Targeted Rates scheme. Habitat for Humanity and Sustainability Trust can also help clients with no-interest loans and additional subsidies.
Independent and Obligation-Free Assessments
Independent and obligation-free assessments to help homeowners and renters decide what actions they should take to make their homes more energy efficient and sustainable – which also means they are warmer, drier and safer to live in – are provided by Sustainability Trust including through the Wellington City Council Home Energy Saver programme, and Eco Design Advisors (currently only one in the Wellington Region, at Hutt City Council, but we hope to see more soon!).
Tips, Advice and Practical Help
Tips, advice and practical help such as curtains are provided by Sustainability Trust, EnergyMate, Eco Design Advisor service, and via the Well Homes partnership.
Enough Homes, Affordable Homes
Ensuring all houses meet minimum standards is fundamental to achieving our vision of all people in Wellington region living in warm, dry, safe homes by 2025. Ensuring enough homes, and that those homes are affordable to live in – whether as owner-occupiers or renters – are the other critical elements. Community Housing Aotearoa, Downtown Community Ministries and Wesley Community Action advocate for measures to eliminate homelessness and ensure affordable housing for all, including vulnerable groups. Te Puni Kokiri and Kāinga Ora manage existing social housing and the building of more social and papakāinga housing and the Ministry of Social Development administers government assistance in the form of Income Related Rent subsidies and the Accommodation Supplement. Wellington City Council manages social housing in both Wellington City and Porirua, including responsibility for upgrades and new development.
Establishing evidence-based and achievable benchmark standards for healthy and sustainable homes is essential to being able to assess and certify that buildings meet minimum standards to ensure they can affordably be kept warm, dry and safe. NZ Green Building Council has worked with industry and government to develop benchmark standards, including the HomeStar standard for new buildings, and the HomeFit standard for existing buildings. The HomeFit standard also provides independent confirmation that a home meets the Healthy Homes Standards, made a legal requirement for all rental housing through amendment to the Residential Tenancies Act in 2019.
The 8 local councils in the region – Kapiti Coast District Council, Porirua City Council, Wellington City Council, Hutt City Council, Upper Hutt City Council, Carterton District Council, Masterton District Council and South Wairarapa District Council – have regulatory powers that can play an important role in realising our Group vision. For example, Hutt City Council in 2020 have changed their Statement of Intent such that all new housing consented from next year will be required to meet HomeStar6 or higher standard. Hutt City Council have also included HomeFit certification on the LIM form so that home buyers will be able to see if the house they are purchasing has been certified warm, dry, safe and energy efficient. Other councils are looking at following suit.
Research & Documenting of Evidence
Research and documenting of evidence about the size and dimensions of the problem of cold, damp and unsafe housing and it’s consequences, as well as evidence of what works to fix those problems is essential for us to be able to select the most effective and efficient strategies, and ensure that advice is based on proven solutions. He Kainga Oranga / The Housing and Health Research Programme at Otago University has investigated the intersection of housing and health and produced a large body of research including evidence that shows us just how significant the cost of housing-related ill health is, in financial and social terms and in lives. He Kainga Oranga partners with service-providers on the Well Homes project to ensure that data from the project both informs ongoing improvements to Well Homes and is available to others seeking to reduce housing-related health problems. The Building Research Association of New Zealand (BRANZ) administers Building Research Levy funds to carry out research on the built environment. This includes the five-yearly House Condition Survey and the Housing and Physical Environment Supplement to the 2018 General Social Survey, two of the few sources of objective assessment of the condition of NZ homes. BRANZ funded the Data Stocktake commissioned by Regional Public Health on behalf of the Wellington Regional Healthy Housing Group.