Candidate Lee Orchard answers Renters United’s questions

September 30, 2019 11:39 pm

Renters United asked every candidate in the Pukehīnau/Lambton Ward 14 questions about the issues that most concern renters in Wellington. Here are Lee Orchard responses in full. Compare Lee with other candidates.

Housing quality:

How will you ensure all council owned and/or managed housing is safe, warm and dry? 

  • When building new council housing, I’ll use my influence to ensure it is built to a safe, warm, and dry standard.
  • I’ll act to have any existing housing with known safety, warmth or moisture problems remedied to a high standard.
  • I’ll act to review the state of all housing that hasn’t been assessed for its safety, warmth, and dryness.
  • Be proactive in keeping abreast of the latest housing reform to make informed decisions.
  • Form and maintain productive partnerships with all relevant stakeholders, eg. Housing NZ, MBIE, Renters United.

What actions would you take to improve the quality of private rental housing in Wellington?

  • Advocate for more robust data about the rental housing sector, so that informed decisions can be made.
  • Partner with local tenancy advocacy groups and other relevant stakeholders to have a productive working relationship and open communication about the challenges facing both council, owners, and renters in the work.
  • Explore the possibility of a citizens assembly to co-ordinate a response to the challenges of housing, such as supply, standards etc. and to foster better relationships across the sector.
  • Advocate for long term leases, longer notice periods, and the opportunity to make minor alterations to one’s home.
  • Replace parking in the CBD with high density housing.

Security of tenure: 

How will you ensure all council tenants have security of tenure?

  • Advocate for this in the council’s operations.
  • Work with tenants to agree on, and determine, what security of tenure might look like for them in their unique circumstances.

What actions would you take to improve stability and security for private renters?

  • As roles are played by several agencies within central and local government, I’d advocate for, and maintain, productive partnerships with these and other stakeholders, such as property owners, tenants, and community groups.
  • Support any new legislative changes in favour of achieving this.

Housing supply and affordability:

WCC estimates Wellington has a shortfall of 4,000 houses. Rents have increased in the city by 10% per annum for the last three years.

Would you set a target for Council to double its housing portfolio by 2024 (from approximately 2,000 units to 4,000)?

I support more housing, but it is no simple matter. There is a construction shortage, significant infrastructure costs and challenges demanding priority, and a lack of suitable land. I would need to work with council to understand what is possible. I wouldn’t want the local government equivalent of what has just happened with Kiwibuild.

How many new houses do you think the City Council should be building annually (above and beyond the private sector)?

As mentioned above, it isn’t a simple matter of significantly increasing supply in the current settings. A prudent approach needs to be taken so that it results in quality housing with money well spent. I’d work with the council to determine what number is achievable and by when. I am definitely in favour of more.

What are your other ideas for addressing the housing shortage and how would you make those a Council priority?

There is a lot of infrastructure that needs to be improved so that those here presently can continue to remain here. Partnering better with property and land owners, thinking creatively, and changing the settings inhibiting housing growth is a good place to start.

Would you advocate for additional powers or resources from Central Government to address the housing crisis (such as the ability to freeze rents), if so what and how? 

  • Review of the Resource Management Act
  • Special purpose vehicle, say fir example in partnership with central government who has a larger balance sheet and can raise finances much more cheaply to relieve the burden on rate payers.

Meaningful enforcement of laws:

Renters United believes the council should be more proactive in supporting renters to enforce both the existing and new housing quality laws (i.e. the Healthy Homes Standards). This could include funding and undertaking inspections of private rental houses against the standards and/or funding advocacy services to support renters in enforcing their rights.

Would you support and fund Council proactively inspecting rental homes?

Yes, but this would be more effective by partnering with other government agencies.

Do you think that Council should play a greater role in enforcing the standards?

Yes, by partnering better with housing agencies and central government to do this in a coherent and well-resourced manner. As things are, it has to be a collective approach. Also, by utilising the powers it has to put pressure on property and land owners.

What other actions would you take to improve the quality of rental housing in Wellington?

Council needs to urgently work with property and land owners to work out how to build high density housing in our very constrained environment. As a young professional who chooses to live alone and live centrally, I pay a lot in rent and it only increases but the condition of the housing decreases, as it does with (has) with time and little upkeep. The already high and ever increasing cost of renting, I want to see more options for people in my situation. Attitudes about the type of housing we have need to change.

Would you fund a dedicated tenants’ advocacy service?

Specifically for the council? I would explore what that might look like and what funding might be available.

What else do you think Council should do to address power imbalance between landlords and tenants?

Leverage on its authority and powers to put pressure on property owners to meet rules and legislation and play their role in helping improve both the quality and supply of housing, especially in the city centre.

Do you have any other ideas or plans relevant to renters that you would like to share?

A lot of rentals are investments by owners that may or may not live locally. Owners pay property management companies to manage the properties, often with a lot of enforcement and restrictions for renters. Rents keep increasing and yet the quality of the housing and service isn’t equal. The owner interest in the wellbeing of the tenant is outweighed by the return they get on their investment. Council need to work on this as well. A balance needs to be struck.

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