Article: Speak Easy

Do Property  Investors and Government Get  Along? with Michael BoturDo Property Investors and Government Get Along? with Michael Botur

The current government doesn’t seem to impress the NZ Property Investors Federation, but that cuts both ways. The NZPIF, which is the umbrella body for 20 local PIFs around the country and represents 7000 property investors, doesn’t seem to impress the government, either, in my opinion. Sure the PIF doesn’t represent everyone, but it’s an important bellwether organisation. It’s estimated there are over 300,000 landlords in New Zealand. There are 450,000 residential rental properties, housing over 600,000 tenants, and worth around $150 billion. 380,000 people, trusts or businesses make money from rental property.
So let’s look objectively at recent interactions between government and the PIF to get a feel for how the two get on.

Nov 29 –After the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill passes its third reading, the NZPIF sounds wary. The bill will increase standards for rental property insulation, heating, temperature, ventilation and drainage. Why would anyone be wary of such tenant protections? Well, the NZPIF opines on its Facebook page “the cost effectiveness of the standards must be considered” because “Most tenants cannot afford rent increases without appropriate increases in living standards.” So PIF claims the problems is tenants will have to foot the bill for improved dwellings, apparently. Hmm.

Nov 12 – NZ PIF claims forced improvements to rental homes by the Government and Wellington City Council could force a massive selloff by private landlords.

Oct 5- NZPIF urges members to check that their rentals comply with new insulation requirements– so on side with the government, for once

Sept 13 – NZPIF scares the country by putting out survey results claiming 73.6 per cent of landlords (well, 73.6 per cent of 816 landlords surveyed) said they would increase rents if a “suite of policies aimed at making it harder for them to provide rental properties” were introduced. The same day, NZPIF said on its Facebook that Labour needs to “front up on the cost of their housing policies for rental property providers and their tenants” – once again suggesting Labour isn’t on the side of tenants.

August 30 – NZPIF is opposed to proposed warrants of fitness for rental houses. NZPIF uses a report on preventable, poverty-related child diseases and the death of children to claim “A report that 30,000 children are hospitalised every year and 20 die from housing related illnesses is shocking” but it “is a multi factor issue that an expensive WOF just will not address.” To clarify: Andrew King says NZPIF is “fully supportive of rental property standards, but they need to be cost effective.” NZPIF has also said there isn’t much improvement from the old to new insulation standards and “there comes a point when no extra amount of insulation will have any extra benefit” (quoted in a news story from Whangarei journalist Susan Edmunds).

It’s unfortunate the NZPIF is critical of the obvious link between substandard rental homes and child health. The Federation put out a media release in June 2015 saying the managers of rental homes (in this case, it was Housing NZ) shouldn’t bear the cost of improved standards for rentals, and that electricity vouchers are a better remedy when winter makes things hard on kids in cold rental homes. “Unfortunately a [rental] WOF would not have helped Emma-Lita, although it is understandable that people want to see something done,” NZPIF said in response to the death of an Otara child.

So, all in all: NZPIF isn’t very impressed with this government. I’m sure that cuts both ways, because Labour has at suggested proposed measures which would increase costs for those who make a living through renting out property. King did say in a November 9 newsletter “The NZPIF has had a very good working relationship with Labour, the Greens and NZ First and we hope that will continue with them in Government,” but yeah, nah – I’m not feeling it, and I’m not sure the two parties will have a terribly warm relationship over the next three years.

Michael Botur has published journalism in NZ Herald, Herald on Sunday, Sunday Star-Times and Mana and he writes a lot of fiction. He moved to Whangarei in 2015 and was ecstatic to be able to afford a house here.

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