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Published: 5 May 2014

Authors: Bennett, J., Chisholm, E., Hansen, R., & Howden-Chapman, P.

Housing is one of the key material determinants of health and well-being; shelter is a fundamental human need. New Zealand housing is of a lower quality than most OECD countries and several national surveys and research studies have shown that private rental housing is in poorer condition than either social housing, or houses that are owner occupied. Living in substandard housing is seriously damaging the health of New Zealanders with children from low-income families, Māori and Pacific peoples disproportionately affected. Over 70% of all children who are in poverty live in rental accommodation (20% in Housing New Zealand housing and 50% in private rentals).

The current regulations for rental housing quality have not been amended since 1947. Today these guidelines are seen by many as inadequate including the Children’s Commission’s Expert Working Group on Solutions to Child Poverty; the group has recommended the introduction of a Rental Housing Warrant of Fitness (WOF), as a means to addressing the health and safety of a large proportion of children living in poor quality private rental housing.