Saturday, July 20, 2019

Bob Edlin: Megan’s handouts for heaters - or not

The Point of Order Trough Monitor typically alerts us to government spending decisions.

The merits of each grant, investment, loan and what-have-you which the monitor identifies are a matter of opinion. Recipients are apt to be keen to express their gratitude. Taxpayers often have cause to complain the money is being misspent.

But the monitor can also spot a handout which doesn’t measure up to what was promised. Somebody somewhere has been short-changed.

Take the case of the grants for energy-efficient heaters that are being dished out as part of the Government’s Warmer Kiwi Homes programme which aims to make homes warmer and more energy

Warmer Kiwi Homes? Who can quibble with that?

Anybody who expected to be eligible but finds they don’t qualify, that’s who.

Let’s hark back to passage of the Health Homes Guarantee Act last year.

The new Labour-led Government, bushy-tailed and raring to lift our wellbeing, was adamant the passing of the Act wouldn’t increase rent prices across New Zealand although it would increase landlords’ costs.

Go figure..

Here’s how this was reported in the NZ Herald at the time:
The Government insists that new minimum standards to ensure rental homes are warm and dry will not push up the price of renting – and help will be available to landlords facing extra costs.

The Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill – which requires minimum standards for heating, insulation, ventilation and drainage in rental homes – passed its third and final reading in Parliament this evening.

The bill passed with the support of Labour, New Zealand First and the Green parties. It is the second major law to be passed by the new Government, after a bill extending paid parental leave passed its third reading just hours beforehand.
Housing Minister Phil Twyford said most landlords did a good job, but the lack of legal standards meant some rentals were not fit to live in.

The Herald report continued:
Speaking before the third reading, Twyford said new standards might see extra costs for landlords.

“We think between $3000 and $5000, if you have to insulate from scratch and put in a heat pump. But we’re going to be providing grants of up to $2000 per property to assist with that.”
He said he did not think the bill’s minimum standards would push up the price of renting.

So how did that turn out?

Fast-forwards to this statement from the Beehive yesterday:

Heat pumps funded by Government to keep Kiwis warmer
Grants for energy efficient heaters are now available as part of the Government’s Warmer Kiwi Homes programme which aims to make homes warmer and more energy efficient.

Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods says the grants will cover two-thirds of the cost of efficient wood burners and heat pumps, up to a maximum grant of $2,500.
Ooh goody.

Grants as much as $2500.

The statement goes on:
Home insulation has also been funded through the programme since July last year.

“We want to help people stay healthy and warm, and keep their power bills in check over winter so we’re making it easier for people by funding the installation of heat pumps and insulation,” Megan Woods says.

“Insulated and heated homes are healthier, and we know there are huge benefits for households with fewer respiratory illnesses and hospital visits.

“This is one part of the package of the Government’s winter support. We’re also helping people keep their heaters on through the Winter Energy Payment, and we’re investigating consumer electricity prices which we’ll report on soon,” says Megan Woods.
So – Woods has delivered something which Twyford had promised.

Let’s celebrate.

Oh, wait.
To be eligible for insulation and heater grants, homeowners must have a Community Services Card or live in a lower-income area. In most cases homes will need to have ceiling and underfloor insulation installed before qualifying for a grant for a heater.
And if you are eligible?

We suggest you move smartly because that’s what Woods is advising:
Eligible homeowners should take action if they don’t have insulation or a wood burner because there is likely to be high demand for grants for heaters.
The NZ Property Investors Federation reckons is disgruntled.
“We have discovered that these grants are available to people in lower-income areas or Community Services Card holders, but only if you are a home owner,” says Andrew King, Executive Officer of NZ Property Investors Federation (NZPIF).

While this move is great for low income home owners, it is disappointing that a promised grant of $2,000 for insulation and heating in rental properties has been scrapped.
King recalls that Labour’s election promise in 2017 was to “assist homeowners and landlords to make their houses warm and healthy to live in with grants of up to $2,000 towards upgrading insulation and heating”.

He further recalls that when Labour passed the Healthy Homes Standards soon after the election in 2017, Twyford confirmed that for landlords who needed to upgrade their properties to meet the standards,
“ … government grants for installing heating and insulation will be available.”
But the wellbeing vibes were faltering earlier this year.

In February, Twyford said the average three-bedroom home which did not meet the standards would now cost about $7000 to upgrade.
“There does not appear to have been any public announcement that the tenant grants had been cancelled” says King. “We only found out when asking policy advisers when the grant was coming into effect and were then told that the promised grants had been cancelled.

“It is really disappointing as everyone knows that when the costs of running a business increase, it is the end customer who ends up paying more..”
We always thought this was a useful rule of thumb, here at Point of Order.

Who is going to have another chat to enlighten Phil Twyford?

Bob Edlin is a veteran journalist and editor for the Point of Order blog HERE.

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