MIKE ROKE: Mouldy homes - where you live should not affect your health

28/04/2017
Back in the early 2000's I lived in Taupo for 4 years. I loved my time there. It's a busy little town with plenty to do. Great food, nice people and that view over the lake to the mountains in the distance is something you never get sick of.

Tell you something I don't miss about Taupo though, is my cold damp house. It had a woodburner so I could get the house nice and warm while that was burning, but there was not a skerrick of insulation in the place - so that heat would escape like rats fleeing a sinking ship. Each morning I could literally see my breath as I lay in bed, and had to keep a pair of slippers by the bathroom because the tiles were too cold to walk on.

I used to ask myself "how this is OK"? Taupo gets cold in winter. Each morning is typically below zero, so why is it OK to build houses there with no insulation?

Fast forward 15 years and the problem still exists. We still have houses in this country with little or no heating and no insulation, and what's more we are now seeing evidence these homes are making our kids sick.

I listened in disbelief to Auckland Paediatrician Professor Innes Asher  this week on RadioLIVE, saying the number of kids with bronchiectasis and chronic respiratory issues admitted to hospital is increasing at alarming rates. She is seeing as many respiratory related admissions as she does for rheumatic fever, and blames this squarely on the poor quality of our homes.

How is this acceptable?

The government has said insulation will be compulsory in all rental homes from July 1st, 2019. That is not soon enough. That’s another two cold, damp winters to endure before landlords are forced to bring their properties up to an acceptable living standard. It beggars belief really.

As I type this I can hear the groans of landlords lamenting the cost of fully insulating their rental property.

All I can say to that is: "why did you buy a house that wasn’t insulated in the first place? Shouldn’t you have made that a condition of purchase? How can you as a landlord, in all good conscience, charge someone money for living in a house that could make them sick? Aren’t you basically saying you care not about their health or that of their children, you only care about their rent money"?

And as far as raising rent to help pay for insulation, don’t you dare. Your tenants should not be helping you pay for something that should have been there in the first place.

I think we all agree that overall New Zealand is a terrific place to live and raise a family, but for a first world country it does have some third world problems. This is certainly one them.

Mike Roke is technical producer for RadioLIVE Drive with Alison Mau, 3-6pm weekdays.