DR LIZ CRAIG

The Invercargill Eye - - CONVERSATIONS -

A cou­ple of weeks ago I vis­ited a mum, who was liv­ing in a pri­vate rental near the cen­tre of town with her four young chil­dren.

De­spite be­ing a four-bed­room house, all five slept in a sin­gle room, the oth­ers be­ing too cold for her chil­dren, who all had asthma, to sleep in.

The other rooms were cold and damp, with vis­i­ble mould grow­ing in the carpet.

The toi­let was leak­ing onto the floor, de­spite re­quests to the land­lord to fix it.

Yet the fam­ily were pay­ing near mar­ket rent, as the short­age of af­ford­able hous­ing meant few other op­tions were avail­able.

As a pub­lic health doc­tor who spent over a decade mon­i­tor­ing the health of our coun­try’s chil­dren, such a sit­u­a­tion fills me with de­spair.

Ev­ery year in South­land, we are see­ing hun­dreds of sick chil­dren com­ing into hos­pi­tal with re­s­pi­ra­tory ill­nesses.

Things like pneu­mo­nia and asthma that are made much worse by cold damp houses.

At the same time, our so­cial hous­ing’s be­ing in­creas­ingly run down, with 69 In­ver­cargill state houses sold off since 2012.

This, cou­pled with an ag­ing pri­vate rental stock and lax rental stan­dards, means many on low in­comes are hav­ing to make an im­pos­si­ble choice.

Do they set­tle for the house they can af­ford, which of­ten means a freez­ing sub-standard rental, or do they pay more for a bet­ter place and then run out food by the end of the week?

Clearly this sit­u­a­tion is un­ac­cept­able.

But how do we fix it, not only for this fam­ily, but also for any­one want­ing a de­cent place to

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