Sunday, November 30, 2008

Our sick houses

The NZ Business Council for Sustainable Development has released a report [PDF] recommending major investment in home insulation. The report is backed by a ShapeNZ survey [PDF] revealing that almost a third of NZ homes have made people sick due to being too cold, damp, or drafty. While ShapeNZ's methodology is questionable, the report's analysis shows the scale of our problem: of NZ's 1.6 million homes, over a million were constructed before there was any requirement for insulation, and it is inadequate in almost all of the rest. While the previous government tightened the building code to finally ensure that new homes would finally be warm, that still leaves a backlog of over 1.5 million which need upgrading - homes which are costing us money and making us sick.

The BCSD suggests several solutions. The key ones to my eye are a home performance rating system, mandatory for rental accommodation, which would let homeowners and landlords gain some value from investing in energy efficiency, and a reduction in red tape around sustainable developments to make it easier to do the right thing (the latter is probably best addressed by a National Policy Statement under the RMA to ensure local government follows up - but that's a time-consuming process).

There's another solution as well: directly funding upgrades through e.g. the previous government's billion dollar home insulation fund. But National has just dumped that. As with the health system, National puts delivering tax cuts to its rich mates ahead of ensuring that all New Zealanders live in warm, dry houses that didn't make us sick.