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May 28, 2018 | by  | in News Splash | [ssba]

Politician’s Potluck (with Marlon and Beth)

On Monday 14 May VUWSA President Marlon Drake hosted a potluck dinner at his flat. On the guest list were VUWSA Welfare Vice President Bethany Paterson, National MP Chris Bishop, Greens MP Gareth Hughes, and Labour MP Paul Eagle. The goal was to sit down and discuss some of the key issues facing Victoria University students as they navigate the Wellington rental market. The dinner made national news, after being filmed by Newshub. In Drake’s words, “students are paying ridiculous prices for absolute shit flats and it’s really not acceptable”. Students are forced to balance study, work, stress, and financial pressure, while getting sick and staying sick from living in cold, damp flats. According to Drake, the cost of living in Wellington is unmanageable for students, and “a big part of that is cost of rent”. Drake also raised how — even if students manage to find an affordable place to live — they face other issues like letting fees, poor quality housing, and an inability to access tenancy services to deal with landlords who facilitate things like rent bidding, or ignore issues raised about their property. Drake says that the potluck dinner was very positive. The MPs agreed that there are issues with student housing, and recognised the need for progress. They supported initiatives like a Rental Warrant of Fitness (WoF) that would guarantee a minimum standard of housing, but there was some division over the timeframe of implementation. Hughes was in favour of a Rental WoF being introduced immediately, and Eagle thought it was definitely a matter of urgency. Bishop thought it was a good idea but felt it was important to wait until there was a larger supply of housing. VUWSA are strong supporters of the Rental WoF. Drake described it as wanting homes that are warm, dry, and “more than just liveable; they need to be reflective of the fact that it’s 2018. There are homes that haven’t been changed since the 1940s and it’s not acceptable”. Drake described the passage of the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act in late 2017 year as “a really good first step”. Equally, the Residential Tenancies (Prohibiting Letting Fees) Amendment Bill — which would ban the excessive letting fees that landlords currently impose on renters — is up to the Select Committee Stage. VUWSA are submitting on 23 May, and are “claiming [the Bill’s progress] as a win,” having spent the early part of this year lobbying against letting fees. Drake is hopeful that progress for student renters will be made. He said that the potluck showed that our MPs do recognise that there is an issue, and are willing to come to a student level to talk about it, because, as Drake put it, “what is more student than a potluck and a bottle of cheap wine”.


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