Press Release – Child Poverty Action Group
New Zealand’s property dream is a nightmare for tenants
The largest-ever worldwide study linking damp housing to respiratory and allergy problems paints a grim picture for New Zealand children says Child Poverty Action Group spokesperson Associate Professor Nikki Turner.
The study involved 46,000 children in 20 countries and provides extensive evidence that living in damp or mouldy homes are bad for our childrens’ health: associated with recurrent runny noses, chesty coughs, wheeziness, and eczema. Furthermore, if a child already has asthma this is made more severe by dampness and mould in the home.
University of Otago researchers identified the most pressing factor in poor quality houses above all others was dampness. The study has significant implications for New Zealand meaning until property owners improved the state of poor quality housing children will continue to suffer unnecessarily.
“There is so much serious respiratory illness in children in our country, we have such poor quality housing with children living in damp, cold, mouldy poorly heated, often rented accommodation,” says Dr Turner.
“When you rent out a car it has to be roadworthy and to a high standard, property owners need to have these discussions about the houses they rent. There has to be social responsibility, we can’t be trading off sick children against capital gains, change has to happen.”
Dr Turner acknowledged the invisibility of the widespread issue. “This is something I see in my practice everyday, infants and children suffering from recurrent chesty illnesses. This is largely invisible to the rest of our society who do not see the reality of these houses: feel the chill, smell the damp as you enter the front door and see the mould covering the walls.”
She says there appears currently to be little incentive for property owners to upgrade homes that are in poor condition. “This is a choice property owners need to make, it’s about social responsibility at all levels, but we need leadership from the government and health organizations.”
Dry warm homes will significantly reduce unnecessary suffering and the flow on effects of healthy children would impact positively in all areas of children’s lives not to mention lowering overall health expenditure.