Third party funding makes home insulation affordable

Devine Fam

Lower income families in Northland can afford to have their homes fully insulated thanks to third party funders such as local power company Top Energy. Under the government’s EECA (Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority) scheme ‘Warm Up New Zealand was re-launched last year, designating a further $100 million to insulate New Zealand homes. Eligible families can obtain a 60% subsidy of the costs of installing insulation through EECA. However thanks to the generosity of organisations like Top Energy who provide additional subsidy, struggling families can get their insulation fully funded.

In 2008, EECA launched the first Warm Up NZ scheme, funding up to 60% of the cost of insulation, with the remainder to be paid by the homeowner. However, many low income households were struggling to fund the balance, yet had the highest need. Healthy Homes Tai Tokerau, a joint venture between Community Business and Environment Centre (CBEC) and He Iwi Kotahi Tatou decided to do something about it, and immediately set about enlisting the help of local organisations to fund the remaining 40%. This initiative was so successful that Northland’s model was used for the nationwide re-launch last year, and re-named Warm Up
NZ: Healthy Homes.

Home insulation has many benefits. As well as making homes warmer, drier and more energy efficient, quality installation reduces illness, particularly in the very young and the elderly. According to a 2007 joint study by government and universities in New Zealand, “Insulating existing houses led to a significantly warmer, drier indoor environment and resulted in improved self-rated health, less self-reported wheezing, fewer days off school and work, and fewer visits to general practitioners, as well as a trend for fewer hospital admissions for respiratory conditions.” In addition, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) estimates the scheme results in $5 of benefits for every $1 spent, mainly through improved health outcomes. “The lack of decent insulation in many Far North homes is a real issue and has an impact on both the physical and financial wellbeing of people right across the region,” said Top Energy chief executive Russell Shaw. “The wastage in trying to heat badly insulated homes is significant, both in terms of energy and money, so we’re pleased to back the Healthy Homes Tai Tokerau initiative.

“We’re so grateful for the third party funders who cover the shortfall for low income families, particularly those with high health needs”, says Paul Hansen, General Manager of Healthy Homes Tai Tokerau. “Thanks to partners like Top Energy we’ve managed to roll the programme out Northland- wide, and into many homes that could otherwise not afford to insulate”. EECA have extended the programme for a further two years, or to the value of $100 million, whichever comes first. Since it started in 2009, Healthy Homes Tai Tokerau has fitted insulation into more than 7,000 Northland homes. Paul encourages those living in cold and damp housing to apply for subsidised insulation for the good of their family’s health and well-being. “Thanks to the generosity and support of funders like Top Energy and ASBCT, hundreds of Northland families will still be able to access fully funded insulation”. It is hoped that many more families can benefit from the scheme in the coming years.

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