Thursday, January 22, 2009

New Zealand's Housing Problems

During the support negotiations of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) the Green party was able to secure a $1b fund to insulate homes around the country. During the election campaign National announced that they would scrap this fund citing lack of money in the budget to do so. I would argue that this is something that they can't afford not to do. Having lived in a cold damp flat last year I have experienced firsthand how your home can affect your health. I thought that I would share my story as an example but I am confident that my experience is not unique and I consider myself lucky to have had the option of shifting house.

I have always had mild asthma symptoms which have come and gone over the years but it has never been a major issue for me, until last year. As soon as I moved into the flat I began coughing at night and wheezing a lot during the day. This was largely controllable by inhalers until early in the winter when I got the flu which was going around Christchurch at the time. Every night for nearly two months I struggled to sleep because I couldn't stop coughing at night and I coughed during much of the day as well. It was only when I went to stay at my parents that I got a decent night's sleep. It took me nearly four months to fully recover from it. In the meantime it took its toll on me physically and mentally. I was tired and run down all the time and I struggled to keep up with assignments at uni.

It is no coincidence that when I moved into my flat my asthma symptoms flared up or that I coughed every night. The house that made me sick had no insulation and no heating and what was worse was that when I moved out and pulled the bed right out I found mould growing along the wall - it was that damp in my bedroom. It is because of my experience that I feel so strongly about this issue. It is also an issue that affects the population disproportionately, creating distinct inequalities between groups of people. The people that are forced to live in houses such as this are unable to afford an alternative. There are also many children suffering ill health as a result of poor quality housing. Is it any wonder that New Zealand has one of the highest child asthma rates in the world?

Insulating and heating homes are such simple solutions to a whole range of health issues. It also makes life that little bit better for people if they know that they are going home to a warm house that isn't going to make them sick. National's proposal to bring forward their $15million spending project just doesn't go far enough and will barely scratch the surface of the housing issues we have in New Zealand.

1 comment:

Kimberlee and Lies said...

Yes! I was dumbfounded when i moved here that most houses have NO insulation and almost very house has NO central heating. People believe that both ins/CH are costly and use too much energy, but honestly have you looked at your electricity bill in winter when you've got that electrical heating running?
Yes! My little one was diagnosed with mild asthma only a few months ago. When I asked 'how come?' the doctor gave me a laconic 'well the rate in Auck/Well is enormously high', as if that should make it acceptable for me...
Although our house has no dampness issues, im very sure the lack of proper insulation affects my daughters health.
Thanks for this post Tui!
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