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Towards healthier homes: the rental WoF (University of Otago Public Health Summer School)

  • Otago University of Wellington 23 Mein Street Wellington, Wellington, 6021 New Zealand (map)

Te ahu ki ngā kāinga oranga: Te Tohu Hauora (WoF) mō ngā whare rēti

Are you aware that substandard housing is a major public health issue in New Zealand, with poor quality housing contributing to ill health and increased injury rates? We know that around two-thirds of our dwellings are uninsulated and most are inadequately heated. A lack of regulation and enforcement has lead to rental housing being in worse condition than owner-occupied housing; this is of great concern as there has been a rapid rise in the number of people renting.

After a decade of research the University of Otago developed the rental WoF in conjunction with the Green Building Council and ACC. The rental WoF was recently introduced by the Wellington City Council. The rental WoF sets minimum standards for health and safety for all residential rental properties.

David Ormandy, a Professor at the Warwick Medical School, will give an overview of what the United Kingdom and Wales have done to improve their housing quality. He will be joined by local researchers who will outline housing research in New Zealand and the barriers to improving housing quality.

Topics covered  

  1. Overview of housing quality in NZ.
  2. Health problems associated with poor quality housing.
  3. How to improve housing quality.
  4. The way forward.

Style of course

Symposium - Multi-speaker presentations in lecture theatre setting.

Who should attend?  

This course is suited to anyone who wants to be right up to date with what is happening to improve housing quality. Those people studying or working in housing improvement (assessors, builders, installers of insulation/heating), government departments with housing and or health responsibilities, policy will find it of use.

By the end of this course participants should have the knowledge about:

  • The unique quality issues that New Zealand housing faces.
  • The health and injury burden associated with poor quality homes.
  • What has been done to improve housing quality overseas.
  • What can be done to improve housing in New Zealand.
  • What is the way forward

Draft Timetable






Session 1: Overview of housing quality in NZ

Setting the scene: Housing issues facing NZ - Prof. Philippa Howden-Chapman
BRANZ House Condition Survey  - Ms. Vicki White
Accident hazards in the home  - Assoc. Prof. Michael Keall
Natural disasters and housing – the Christchurch experience  - Ms Graciela Rivera-Munoz



Morning tea


Session 2: Health problems associated with poor quality housing

Housing quality and children’s hospital admissions - Dr. Nevil Pierse
Household crowding and health outcomes  - Prof. Michael Baker
Housing respiratory burden  - Dr. Lucy Telfar-Barnard
Housing and mould  - Dr. Caroline Shorter



Lunch break


Session 3: How to improve housing quality

HHSRS – the UK experience  - Prof. David Ormandy
The University of Otago Rental WoF  - Dr. Julie Bennett
Local government rental WoF implementation experiences  - Ms. Carolyn Dick



Afternoon tea


Session 4: The way forward

Central government, MBIE experiences with enforcement of Insulation Regulations  - Mr. Steve Watson
Renters United  - Mr. Robert Whitaker

Panel discussion


Finish -Drinks and nibbles

Teaching staff  

Prof. Philippa Howden-Chapman - University of Otago, Wellington. Philippa is a professor of public health at the University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand, where she teaches public policy. She is director of He Kainga Oranga/ Housing and Health Research Programme and the New Zealand Centre for Sustainable Cities. She has conducted randomised community housing trials in partnership with local communities, which have had a major influence on housing, health and energy policy. She has a strong interest in reducing inequalities in the determinants of health and has published widely in this area, receiving a number of awards for her work including the Prime Minister’s Science Prize in 2014. She is currently the chair of the WHO Housing and Health Guideline Development Group and was a member of the Children’s Commissioner’s Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand

Ms. Vicki White - Building Research Association of New Zealand (BRANZ). Vicki is an author of the 2015 BRANZ House Condition Survey. The analysis focuses on comparing house condition between the two tenures (owner-occupied and rented). The BRANZ House Condition Survey (HCS) provides a snapshot of the state of New Zealand housing at a point in time

Assoc. Prof. Michael Keall - University of Otago, Wellington. Michael is an injury epidemiologist who has been working for the University of Otago, Wellington since 2006. He is currently leading the Home Injury Prevention Intervention, a major randomised controlled trial funded by the NZ Health Research Council that is looking at the effectiveness of repairs to home injury hazards as a means to reduce home injury. He is a principal investigator in two major research programmes hosted by the University of Otago, Wellington - He Kainga Oranga and the New Zealand Centre for Sustainable Cities.

Ms Graciela Rivera-Munoz - University of Otago, Wellington. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Graciela has a background in political sciences and public health education. Graciela has a research focus on the role of communities in public health practice and in the development, implementation, and evaluation of public policy in a broader sense. Currently, she is engaged in a qualitative case study of housing recovery after the Canterbury Earthquakes of 2010-2011 and the development of a critical theoretical perspective on the concept of community, neighbourhood, and suburb resilience, as a main-stay of the disaster literature.

Dr. Nevil Pierse - University of Otago, Wellington. Nevil is deputy director of He Kainga Oranga/Housing and Health Research Programme. Originally a statistician by training, his current work is done in partnership with a wide variety of stakeholders including government and community organisations, and is focused on the design and implementation of randomised trials in the home and community.

Prof. Michael Baker - University of Otago, Wellington. Michael is a public health physician and professor in the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago, Wellington. He is a co-director of the Housing and Health Research Programme/He Kainga Oranga and director of the Health Environment & Infection Research Unit (HEIRU). Micahel has a strong research interest in infectious diseases, environmental health and health determinants. He has researched major infectious diseases of childhood, such as meningococcal disease and rheumatic fever, and the effects of poor housing conditions, notably household crowding.

Dr. Lucy Telfar-Barnard - University of Otago, Wellington. Lucy's research interests cover seasonal and cold-temperature-related morbidity and mortality; respiratory disease; tenancy law and the regulation of rental housing quality; New Zealand housing construction types, their distribution, classification and associated health outcomes; and novel epidemiological uses of administrative datasets. She is currently measuring New Zealand’s respiratory disease burden, and assessing the effect of mechanized home ventilation systems on health outcomes

Dr. Caroline Shorter - University of Otago, Wellington.

Prof. David Ormandy - Warwick Medical School, United Kingdom. Currently, member of the World Health Organization Working Group developing Healthy Housing Guidelines. Member of the Working Group for the National Healthy Housing Standard, published in 2015 by the American Public Health Association and the National Center for Healthy Housing. In 2012, advisor to the Building Research Establishment (BRE) on a project to develop a methodology to compare the one-off cost of mitigating housing hazards with the estimated annual cost saving to the health sector in England - Real Cost of Poor Housing. Also advisor to BRE on production of a Guide and an Assessment Protocol on Overheating in Dwellings published in 2015. From 1992 to 1998, involved in studies for UK government into controls on minimum standards in housing and the health impact of housing conditions. Responsible to the UK government for the projects to develop the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), which was adopted as the statutory method for assessing housing conditions in England and Wales in 2006. Developed training courses for local authority officers on the use of the HHSRS.

Dr. Julie Bennett - University of Otago, Wellington. Julie is a Research Fellow for the Housing and Health Research Programme at the University of Otago, Wellington. She has worked and done research in the field of public health in a range of roles. Her research interests include reducing inequalities, air pollution, respiratory health and housing.

Ms. Carolyn Dick -  Senior Advisor Policy, Wellington City Council.

Mr. Steve Watson - National Manager Compliance and Investigations, Housing and Tenancy Services, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). Steve has a 35 year career in law enforcement and regulation. He was previously a Police Officer, but his last 10 years have been spent with MBIE and its former agency the Department of Labour. He was awarded an MBIE Chief Executive leadership Award in 2016 for his leadership of Government collaborative regulatory work in the Immigration and Employment fields for the Canterbury Rebuild.

Mr. Robert Whitaker - Renters United. Robert is a spokesperson for Renters United, who believe in the rights of renters to live in safe and healthy homes, pay affordable rents, be able to find a rental home free from discrimination, intimidation and harassment, expect respective and responsive relationships with tenants and landlords, and have long-term security and stability of rental agreements.

Course cost and registration


A 50% discount is available to full-time students, those unwaged and University of Otago staff.

Māori and Pacific scholarships

Scholarships for course attendance are available to Māori and Pacific people studying or working in Māori or Pacific health. A scholarship will enable the recipient to attend a one-day course of their choosing. Please note that the number of scholarships provided is limited so get in quickly to be eligible.

To apply, you need to fill in the registration form found on the registration portal. Once you have selected your ethnicity and that you wish to apply for a scholarship, the following will come up to be completed.

  • Please explain your work in the public health sector.
  • Please list the reason(s) why the cost of registration may prevent you from attending this Summer School course
  • Please tell us how attendance at this Summer School course will help you in your professional development
  • Please tell us about your commitment to Hauora Māori or Pacific Health

If you have any queries please email