Last week we learned that a child's death had been explicitly blamed on the poor quality of the state house she lived in. The government's polling must have been telling them about how angry the public are about that, because yesterday the government flip-flopped from calling housing standards "extreme" to promising to introduce them:
Rental properties will have to meet a set of minimum standards under rules to be unveiled by the Government next month.
The move will stop short of a full "warrant of fitness" for rentals but is aimed at ensuring all tenants have a safe and healthy home to live in, Government sources confirmed.
That is likely to include a requirement for insulation, although sources said there was still work to be done to set any standards at a practical level. It is due to be announced next month by Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith, along with an assessment of a warrant of fitness trial in state houses, and would apply to all rentals both private and public.
Any improvement is better than what we've got now, where there seems to be no obligation on landlords to ensure that their houses are fit for habitation and don't kill children. At the same time, we should recognise that this is pathetically weak. There's no mention for example of things like carpet, heating, or houses being required not to leak, despite these all being contributing factors to Emma-Lita Bourne's death. As with capital gains taxes, National is reacting to overwhelming public demand by doing the least it possibly can, in order to protect the profits of its slumlord friends and MPs. But as with capital gains taxes, it means that it will be much easier for a future left-wing government to strengthen those provisions and require every rental home to be warm and healthy.