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Houses in New Zealand
6 April 2018

Opinion: More of what you want

As a small not-for-profit, it’s important for us to make sure we are putting our energies where we can have the most impact.

We put a bunch of 25- to 45-year-olds in a room recently to get a better insight into their world. They came from all walks of life and ethnicities, incomes and education levels.

Thankfully, they weren’t homogenous in their views. But there were universal concerns – the environment (particularly water quality), making ends meet and how to invest wisely, where to get information on the right education for their kids. The big one was property – from what to know about buying a house to tenants’ rights.

As a small not-for-profit, it’s important for us to be taking the pulse like this regularly so we’re sure we are putting our energies where we can have the most impact.

In this issue, we’ve found real estate agents being backward in coming forward with details of their commissions. We found (as we often do) that it pays to shop around for an agent – but it’s harder than it should be when prices aren’t disclosed upfront.

For tenants, we found they’re more likely to get sub-par service and have to put up with sub-standard housing if they rent through a property management company.

To get a true picture of the rental market, we surveyed 1062 tenants. Sixty-four percent were renting because they said they couldn’t afford to buy a house in the area they lived. Just 31% said it suited their lifestyle or they liked the flexibility of renting.

A quarter said the property had mould. One in four also reported their landlord had turned up unannounced – a breach of tenancy legislation. Why not complain, you might ask? The response was many renters were worried of a comeback – either a bad reference, a rent increase or being given notice.

As more Kiwis turn to renting as a permanent solution to their housing needs, our tenancy legislation needs updating. It can’t just be tinkering (the recent move to stop landlords charging letting fees is not nearly enough). We’re calling for regulation of property managers, improved security of tenure, blacklisting unfair terms and fees, and a better advocacy service to help renters enforce their rights.

We also asked our group how they looked for information. Of course, online was the first step. But we also wanted to know if, and how, they used magazines. Then (in a recent survey), we asked you – our strongest supporters – for your views.

What came back was strong interest in the magazine but in a different way to how it is being produced now. We’ve taken that on board. From June we will go bimonthly – but we will produce a magazine nearly double the size and more focused on issues that affect you.

The June/July issue will have a winter theme. It will have at least 30 pages dedicated to the good oil on keeping your home warm and healthy. It will be 84 pages (the current magazine is 44 pages).

We’re developing themes for the rest of this year and into 2019. Member pricing will stay the same.

As always, give us your feedback so we can continue to produce more of what you want.

By Sue Chetwin

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