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Conditions at social housing place risk tenants' health

Conditions at social housing place risk tenants' health - expert

Eleisha Foon, Journalist

Some residents of a Christchurch social housing complex are fed up with black mould and freezing conditions harming their physical and mental health.

a window frame with
mold and cracked paint inside

Frank Poissonnier, who lives at Concord Place in a social housing complex, says he's fed up with the cold and mouldy conditions at his home. Photo: RNZ / Eleisha Foon

Those living at Burwood's Concord Place say they are desperate for insulation in their homes.

Frank Poissonnier lives in one of the 52 unit complexes owned by the council and managed by the Ōtautahi Community Housing Trust.

He's lived there for 11 years and said his cold and mouldy home was slowly killing him.

"It's cold enough to freeze your what's its off, that ain't no joke. Water runs down the walls ... there's black mould. That one little heater I've got in there, that has to be continuously going for the five or six coldest months ... my power bill is $250-280 a month," Mr Poissonnier said.

Frank Poissonnier shows the conditions of his cold social
housing home, where a layer of the ceiling appears to be
coming off. Photo: RNZ / Eleisha Foon

The government's Healthy Homes legislation requires all rental properties to have floor and ceiling insulation, but Concord Place residents were told by the council that it wasn't possible to insulate their units because of their design.

Architectural designer Bob Burnett visited the unit today and said if full insulation was not possible, alternative solutions must be found to make the homes warm and dry.

After viewing the unit, Mr Burnett said the properties needed a significant investment to make them livable and that people's health was seriously at risk.

He said he was shocked by "the lack of insulation and the ridiculously poor windows".

He said the problem needed to be fixed rather than solved by a band aid approach.

While some of the units were in better condition than others, Mr Burnett said most were extremely rundown.

Architectural designer Bob Burnett talks to Frank Poissonnier at the social housing complex in Christchurch. Photo: RNZ / Eleisha Foon

Another Concord Place resident, Jean Eastern, said her unit was cold - but she was given some tips by the council to help keep warm.

"I was given some bubble wrap for my windows from the council," she said.

Mr Burnett was appalled and said that type of advice was a poor attempt at dealing with a major health issue.

Many New Zealanders suffer from winter-related illnesses as a result of poor housing - with some proving fatal, he said.

Mr Poissonnier said enough was enough and he wanted change.

"How many people have to die and have to go financially in trouble, until somebody actually does something."

In a statement, the Christchurch City Council said while the design of some the units at Concord Place meant it was not possible to install insulation, they were compliant with current rental legislation.

The council is currently investigating other ways to improve warmth of their homes.


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