DR LIZ CRAIG
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