The opportunity to upgrade the country’s million sick homes has never been greater. Nor has the opportunity to muff it. At stake is major chance to re-orientate the building and real estate industry toward the performance – not just the location and appearance – of homes.
It would stop million poorly performing homes (largely built between the 1950s and 1990s) making 433,000 occupants year sick, and put tens of thousands of people in the building and related sectors back to work and create new jobs.
Look to the May 28 budget to see if there is truly comprehensive National-Green deal to marshal Government and private resources to fix the $22 billion sick home tragedy in the next decade. Or just an extension of state-funded subsidy schemes to insulate only, desirable as that is.
The problem doesn’t need political deals to spend billion of public money over 15 years, as the Greens negotiated with the last Labour-led government. Any plan needs to give home owners and landlords incentives to invest to make our homes warmer and healthier, while using less energy.
It needs:
Solution packages The Government, industry and home users to agree package of solutions which will improve home performance (usually involving combination of things like insulation, double glazing, heating efficiency improvements and moisture control). These will get internal home temperatures up to 18 degrees, when maximum health and energy saving benefits kick in. Often this is not achieved by putting in some extra insulation.

Performance rating
A requirement to declare whether or not home has performance rating and, if so, what it is. single national home performance rating will provide return on investment for homeowners and landlords: performance-rated homes sell and rent faster, for more, according to overseas experience.

Finance offers
A package of council and energy company offers to private homeowners and landlords, which allow them to borrow to do comprehensive performance upgrades – repaid from energy savings or from estates when people die.

Green tape designs
National pre-approved efficient home design features to cut resource consent costs and approval times, while encouraging the use of innovative new features.

Stepped-up training for the building and related sector, so it can offer comprehensive solutions to the hundreds of thousands who are planning to renovate in the next few years, and also issue ratings certificates easily and cheaply.
New nationwide research conducted among 2160 New Zealanders in April by ShapeNZ for the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development, shows:
• 87 percent believe the Government, building industry, home owners and users should jointly develop new policy to progressively improve the million poorly performing homes over the next 10 years.
• 71 percent of homeowners and 61 percent of rental property owners say their properties could be warmer and more comfortable.
• 29 percent of landlords are likely to renovate (four percent definitely will) during the next year, along with 43 percent of private home owners.
• 31 percent of homeowners will spend $1000-$5000 on renovations in the next year, 13 percent $5000-$10,000 and 14 percent $10,000 plus.
• 40 percent of landlords will spend $1000- $5000 on renovations in the next year, 12 percent $5000-$10,000 and six percent $10,000 plus.
The biggest obstacle to improving home efficiency is affording it: 59 percent say they don’t have the financial means.
If the Government, utility companies, banks and local authorities offer loans and other incentives, like reverse equity mortgages, to home owners and landlords to upgrade their properties’ performance, they will achieve stunning result: More than 670,000 homeowners will take advantage of loans, mortgage extensions (and government grants aimed at those on low incomes with health issues) within the next 10 years; Given the right package, 210,000 would do it in the next 12 months; 63 percent also support making home performance ratings mandatory.
Told some might oppose mandatory ratings, 67 percent would support requirement that people selling and renting homes declare whether or not they have rating, from July 1, 2012.
National voters love it (60 percent) and Green voters love it even more (75 percent), along with voters for the Maori (80 percent) and Labour parties (72 percent).
So, the National and Green parties have the option this month to:
• Develop policy within the old paradigm of paying only part of the cost of shoving insulation into the easiest places and neither properly sealing the thermal envelope nor dealing the scale of the problem, or
• Adopt comprehensive package – backed by the building industry, consumer and health groups, and utilities and banks – to provide real solutions – and attractive ways of helping people fund it themselves.

Peter Neilson is chief executive of the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development. The Business Council’s report on home performance improvement, resulting from $300,000 two-year research project, is available at www.nzbcsd.org.nz

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