21 Aug 2015

'Mould family not the only one suffering'

11:57 am on 21 August 2015

The Child Poverty Action Group says thousands of people are afflicted by poor housing and are not getting the help they need.

Professor Innes Asher of the Child Poverty Action Group

Professor Innes Asher of the Child Poverty Action Group Photo: RNZ/Kim Baker Wilson

Earlier today, Radio New Zealand revealed that doctors and health workers have said the mould in Te Ao Marama Wensor's Housing New Zealand home in Glen Innes has contributed to her seven-year old son's life-threatening lung and heart problems.

Housing New Zealand is now offering to pay for her family to stay in a motel until a new home can be found.

Innes Asher, who is the Head of Paediatrics at the University of Auckland, said more than 2000 families were on the agency's emergency housing waiting list.

"That's double what it was two years ago and these are people whose health and well-being is at immediate risk. Many of these are households with children, so I hope that Housing New Zealand will be looking at motels for all of these families immediately."

Dr Asher said she sees many children with serious lung diseases and rheumatic fever because of poor public and private rental housing and action is not being taken swiftly enough.

She said all rental properties, whether state or privately owned, must provide a healthy environment for tenants.

This morning, Housing New Zealand's chief executive Glenn Sowry said Ms Wensor's situation was unacceptable and that it would pay for a motel for as long as it takes to find a new home.

He said the family was offered another house but Ms Wensor chose to remain where she was until something was available in her chosen areas. Ms Wensor disputes this.

"We can only provide a home where one is available. If the areas that Ms Wensor wants to move has no vacancies we simply need to find some accommodation."

Mr Sowry said he would be looking at why repairs were not fully carried out Ms Wensor's home.

Auckland Action Against Poverty's Alastair Russell said other families living in similar conditions had the right to go to Work and Income and ask to be put up in a motel too.

He said the Government had a responsibility to do something meaningful about the housing crisis.

Labour's housing spokesperson Phil Twyford said he did not accept there were no vacant state houses available.

"It's simply unacceptable for them to delay like this and they are a large organisation - they have 68,000 houses, they have a balance sheet of $18 billion. In the suburb where this family lives, there are 2800 state houses."

Te Ao Marama Wensor's son Iriah, in hospital.

Te Ao Marama Wensor's son Iriah, in hospital. Photo: RNZ/Lauren Baker

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