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Source: Human Rights Commission

Renters, Māori and Pacific peoples are among the groups most affected by poor housing habitability in Aotearoa New Zealand, according to human rights indicators released today as part of Te Kāhui Tika Tangata, the Human Rights Commission’s Housing Inquiry. 

The Commission has focused on three human rights indicators – rates of damp and mould, household crowding, and cold – to show habitability trends, as part of its Measuring Progress series.

“The indicator for dampness and mould in rental housing shows a small improvement, but the other two indicators – household crowding, and cold – show no improvement” explains Chief Commissioner Paul Hunt.

Most housing indicators show rental housing is of significantly poorer quality than owner-occupied housing. There is also considerable difference in home ownership rates between ethnic groups, with Māori and Pacific peoples particularly less likely to live in owner-occupied housing.  

Mr Hunt says the right to a decent home applies to everyone, but these human rights indicators paint a contrasting picture, with not everyone across the country equally able to access decently habitable housing. 

“Housing habitability affects the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders, contributing to a burden of disease for people living in poor quality housing, says Mr Hunt.

“These indicators lay it out clearly for us; local and central government, and private landlords must improve housing habitability in order to achieve the progressive realisation of the right to a decent home.

“To make sure they do that, the country needs a new effective accountability mechanism, which uses the indicators. 

“These indicators provide a window into significant failings by successive governments to address Te Tiriti o Waitangi responsibilities with regard to habitable homes for tangata whenua.” 

Tangata whenua housing issues stem directly from colonisation, which saw racist policies of dispossession of land and resources, forcing whānau into poverty and dependence. 

“Improving the habitability of housing for tangata whenua must also be seen in this context of honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi, addressing racism, addressing land loss, land use barriers, and improving access to appropriate housing. 

“The recent Healthy Homes legislation should help to improve housing overall and reduce the gap between owner-occupied and rental housing. But this will only be possible if there is an effective accountability mechanism put in place to ensure that landlords comply, and it is not left up to vulnerable tenants to hold their landlords to account. 

The Chief Commissioner is also concerned that recent cost of living increases are likely to mean more people, particularly renters, tangata whenua, and Pacific peoples will feel the cold this winter, as people struggle to cover the cost of heating their homes.