Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Landlords are subsidised by 18 avoidable deaths a year

For the last two days, Housing Minister Nick Smith has been dismissing the value of home insulation on reducing health costs. Meanwhile, State Housing Minister Paula Bennett is promoting its benefits:

New carpet, a heat pump, security lights and shiny new tapware have turned Jennifer Makatea's cold state house into a safe haven.

The 23-year-old mother of two had to put shoes on her children's feet to keep them warm on the bare floors in Hamilton's harsh winters, but those days are gone after Housing New Zealand spent $12,000 to upgrade her home.


Waikato's Housing New Zealand houses had $11.5 million spent on them in the past year and Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett said that was an increase of $2.9m since 2012.

Upgrades at Makatea's house have seen trips to hospital for her two-year old son, Ralph Lucas Opetaia​, who suffers respiratory problems, all but disappear.

That unsurprising. Analysis of the warm-up New Zealand programme showed a benefit-cost ratio of roughly 4 to 1, with the vast majority of that coming from avoided health costs. Or, to put it another way, warm, dry homes keep people out of hospital and save a huge amount of public money. So why isn't Nick Smith promoting that with proper standards? And why is he accepting landlords poor housing when he admits that it kills 18 people a year?

Those 18 lives a year are just an effective subsidy to landlords. Its time we ended it, and made them provide safe houses, as we would with any other product.