The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2020 is being rolled out in three phases, with phase 1 changes in effect since 11 August 2020. The amendments coming into effect today will build on initial changes introduced in 2020, empowering and providing security for renters in a New Zealand that is in the midst of a housing crisis.

The changes under the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act include:

- limits to rent increases to once every 12 months

- tenants making minor changes to the rental property

- prohibitions on rental bidding

- new notice periods for ending periodic tenancies

- Fixed term tenancies automatically rolling over to periodic

Hāpai Te Hauora CEO, Selah Hart says, "These new amendments are long overdue and a welcome reprieve for our whānau and hāpori, who have been disadvantaged by and discriminated against in a rental system that privileges the rights of landlords".

"The modern reality is that a large majority of our whānau and communities are living in rental properties, locked out of home ownership by the housing crisis. Our whānau and communities have a right to live in a house that they can call a home", says Hart.

Māori Public Health Policy Analyst, Renei Ngawati talks about the realities of renting, "For too long landlords have been able to discriminate against prospective tenants based on ethnicity, whānau configuration and income. Whānau have the right to live in safe neighbourhoods, where they can raise their families. The location of a rental can often determine or influence how whānau make decisions about their futures".

Public Health Advisor for Minimisation and Prevention of Gambling Harm, Erana Boyd says, "The new changes provide security for renters without the pressure from landlords to meet unrealistic expectations".

"From a gambling harm minimisation perspective, we know that prior to these amendments the rental market fed on tenant desperation. An unexpected rent increase could mean the difference between a whānau eating that week or keeping a roof over their head. These conditions motivate whānau to turn to practices that may be harmful to them, such as loan shark lending or harmful gambling", says Boyd.

This again highlights the need for government officials to continue to make bold moves in addressing the housing crisis that is upon us, and to understand the need for further strategies and planning that enables equitable access to home ownership as one of the key social determinants of health. Whilst we remain in a public health pandemic, we know how important having a secure, safe, dry and warm home is, especially when it comes to whānau who are more at risk of disease and illness, and those who work in frontline services that have the potential to expose them to COVID-19.