Candidate James Sullivan answers Renters United’s questions

September 14, 2022 2:31 pm


James Sullivan

Takapū/Northern General Ward


Likely to make little difference for renters

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Renters United asked every candidate in the Takapū/Northern Ward 17 questions about the issues that most concern renters in their ward. Here are James Sullivan’s responses in full.

Rapid fire questions

Are you a renter? No
Do you own any properties? Yes
Do you support the Renters United Healthy Homes Commitment? Yes
Do you commit to funding tenant advocacy? Yes
Do you support councils retaining ownership an expanding supply of council housing? Yes
Will you lobby for IRRS to be extended to councils? Yes
Do you commit to densifying inner city suburbs? Yes
Will you commit to using your platform to abolish the ratepayers roll? Yes

Stable homes

What actions would you take to improve stability and security for private renters?
Beyond lobbying the parties in parliament. I would push for council to begin a building programme prioritising the groups that tend to end up in the lowest quality rental housing. Such housing would be spartan to maximise number of builds. I would also look at creating options for rental owners to claim on rates where they have a property that meets the healthy home requirements AND renters have agreements for a minimum of five years and the landowner has waived their right to evict for anything but a Tenancy Tribunal ruling.

How will you ensure all council tenants have security of tenure?
First I would learn some of the specifics of what differs between the agreement for council tenants vs general tenants. As while I’ve rented for a long time it was never with council. From what I do know I would look to make sure that tenancies are provided for a minimum of 5 years with the tenant being able to choose to renew for another 5 years or switch to rolling tenancy. I would also look to make sure that council cannot evict someone without confirmation from the Tenancy Tribunal.

What steps will you take to end homelessness in Wellington?
Related to my response about central government providing a minimum level of housing quality through the tax system. I would want council to build things like small apartments that are then provided to homeless fully subsidised. With funded access to mental and life help services. However to do such a thing would also require the people that would provide such support to be able to live here too, so I would start by increasing the amount of healthy and affordable housing stock for people like health workers. Giving them the stability and time to use their skills to help others.

Meaningful enforcement

If elected, would you take steps to tackle persistent bad landlords who do not meet their obligations to renters in your area? If so, what?
I would need to work with council officers to understand exactly what can be done or attempted. However I would like to be able for council to declare recidivist landowners unfit to operate rental properties and thus ban them from doing so for any owned properties. I would also look at placing penalty rates for landowners found to violate Tenancy Tribunal orders. Or on the flipside rebates to landowners that have not lost or violated Tenancy Tribunal orders. The latter is more visible as a carrot but still has the same impact as the stick.

What do you think Council should do to address power imbalance between landlords and tenants? If nothing, why?
One way I think council can address this is by placing a levy on rental property owners that is then fed into tenant organisations. I do not believe this would have much of an effect on prices as they’re already as high or even beyond what the market can bear. I would also like to use such levies to specifically fund monitoring of rental properties much in the same way we monitor food safety in restaurants.

Fair rent

Would you advocate for additional powers or resources from Central Government to address the housing crisis (such as legislating for Rent Control), if so what and how?
Rent control alone is not a useful solution in my view. What I would prefer is that central government treats housing as we treat education and health. That a basic level is provided through our tax system. Private entities can always provide bigger or different, but government sets the minimum acceptable. I think central government should look at how a place like Singapore can support affordable housing without falling into the trap of corruption.

What do you think are the main reasons rents in Wellington are increasing? How would you ensure rents in Wellington are affordable?
The two biggest things in my view are 1. A total and complete lack of units. And 2. Lack of affordable transport links. To address the first I think council needs to work with other councils and pre-approve a large set of prefab designs. Council should also pre-approve a set of foundation approaches too. Objections also need to be refined to items such as suitability of the land to support the building (avoid floodplains for example) or colour (a heap of single colour is pretty soul destroying.) There also need to be incentives to build increased density. For the second, road allocation has to be moved to forms of transport that are more environmentally, space, and fiscally efficient. More bike lanes and secure bike storage will assist people to live where there is available housing and not simply where it’s close enough to walk or so far away they have to have a car to keep their job.

Safe and healthy homes

What actions (in contrast to or in conjunction with our Healthy Homes Commitment) would you take to improve the quality of private rental housing in your ward and in your city?
As existing private landowners have largely shown an inability to address this I would have council accelerate the NPS-UD to make it easier to build more good density AND invest in council to start building too.

Anything else you want to share?

No answer provided

James Sullivan

Takapū/Northern General Ward


Likely to make little difference for renters

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