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Performance of rental housing fact bank

With rising interest in central government in mandating a standard of performance for rental houses, there has been ongoing discussion of the pros and cons of a rental house Warrant of Fitness.  However, there are many different opinions on what should be included in any WOF.

As a base for such discussions, we have drawn together the core facts and knowledge about the performance of rental housing. This fact bank (below) is drawn from a range of publications and research, and was developed by Beacon to underpin efforts to encourage action among central government, local government and landlords to improve the quality of rental housing. Over time we will use this to develop our understanding, with partners about how rental housing can be improved.

The current version of the fact bank is for comment and feedback, and has been sent to councils, central government agencies, tenants’ agencies, and health boards.  We are hoping to gather feedback by end of June so we can reissue a v2 in July.


Retrofitting wall insulation fact bank

Of all the potential improvements to Christchurch houses, we believe the greatest opportunity lies in installing wall insulation. Why?  Because it will make the biggest improvement to how the home performs and because the chance to do so doesn’t come around often.

  • It is an important piece in the house performance puzzle.  Research has shown that insulating only the ceilings and under floors will save a bit through using less energy but it won’t warm the house to a healthy level.  To reach the minimum temperatures recommended by the World Health Organisation for good health (16°C in bedrooms and 18°C in living spaces) AND save energy, wall insulation is vital. 

  • The opportunity is huge and won’t come around again for a while.  Retrofitting wall insulation is costly and inconvenient.  For these reasons, wall insulation is often only undertaken during major renovations, a once-in-30-year event. There are an estimated 3,300 renovations normally undertaken annually in Christchurch where re-lining of plasterboard in walls occurred.

Christchurch, however, has 110,000 homes awaiting repair.  Many of these homes have damaged cladding or internal linings, which will be replaced as part of the earthquake repairs.  And given 63% of Christchurch’s homes were built before insulation was mandatory, most of these will have no wall insulation whatsoever.

Beacon has been working to influence insurers, and in particular EQC, to allow homeowners to include wall insulation retrofits as part of their earthquake repairs.  

This fact bank (below) assembles the latest research on why wall insulation is needed and data on the opportunities presented by earthquake repair.


Unflued gas heaters fact bank

Beacon has developed a fact bank to draw together all the international and national knowledge about unflued gas heaters.

We believe that New Zealand homes would be better off without unflued gas heaters because:

  • They emit nitrogen dioxide, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and particulates which cause health and respiratory problems.
  • They are a greater fire risk than electric heaters.
  • They produce 0.5 L of water per hour, making homes damper.
  • Running a dehumidifier to get rid of the moisture is common and creates a hidden cost to using unflued gas.
  • They are a costly way to heat.

The IEQ benchmarks in Beacon’s HSS High Standard of Sustainability® are concerned with keeping homes warm, dry and free of pollution sources.  Removing unflued gas heating is a core intervention for New Zealand homes to meet the HSS®.

For some households, unflued gas heaters are really the least of their problems: many know the heaters are bad but have no choice or capacity to stop using them.

Beacon is working with community, industry and government organisations to continue to develop the value case for change and identify how to appropriately help all households stop using unflued gas heaters.  In particular, we are interested in alternatives to these heaters.

  • 25-Nov-2014 (Publication PUB/24)

    Beacon Resource: Performance of Rental Housing v3 (PDF 1MB)

    Vicki Cowan, Lisa Burrough, Lois Easton

    This document is Beacon's repository of core facts and knowledge about the performance of rental housing and the issues around how this can be improved.  It is a living document; readers are encouraged to send updates or corrections to inform any reissue in the future.  The document covers sources of evidence for the quality of rental housing stock, the impact of poor quality rental housing on tenants, supply and demand in the rental housing market, current interventions, characteristics of landlords and tenants, and the policy and legislative context.  The discussion segments the rental housing market and makes recommendations to improve rental housing.

  • 30-Apr-2012 (Publication BBS/2)

    Retrofitting Wall Insulation Fact Bank: Benefits and the Opportunity Earthquake Repairs Offer Christchurch (PDF 56KB)

    Lois Easton, Andrea Blackmore

    This fact bank is the repository of Beacon's core facts and knowledge about retrofitting wall insulation and the potential for this to be undertaken during earthquake repairs in Christchurch.  It reflects our current knowledge - if you have other or more up-to-date information, we invite you to draw our attention to it.  We will hold the fact bank as a living document and issue updated version as we receive feedback and input.  

  • 22-Feb-2010 (Publication PUB/7)

    Unflued Gas Heaters Fact Bank (PDF 124KB)

    Vicki Cowan, Lisa Burrough, Verney Ryan

    This fact bank pulls together national and international research and knowledge about problems associated with using unflued gas heaters.