“The Woeful Quality Of Many New Zealand Homes Is Making Us Ill”

If you’re thinking about moving to New Zealand take a while to familiarise yourself with the problems and many challenges New Zealand’s poor quality housing may present to you, particularly if you have asthma or have children that suffer with it.

‘Toxic homes’ are a nightmare for many in New Zealand and immigrants fresh to the country are often seen as naive or easy targets and “stitched up” into buying a property afflicted with Leaky Home Syndrome. It can be very hard to spot one of these homes, outwardly it may may look attractive but withinits walls may lurk a problem that could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars to put right and damage your health. And it’s not just the cheap, hastily erected properties that are affected, million dollar mansions are just as likely to leak like a sieve.

A Remuera real estate agent -Steve Koerber of Barfoot & Thompson- once admitted that migrants were particularly at risk because so many were unaware of the dangers of buying a New Zealand house:

“I have a big problem with the fact that hundreds of new immigrants and some locals are literally stitched up into potentially leaky or actually leaky homes. Their eyes are wide shut and some owners and agents are genuinely relieved to find them.” read more here

There’s an interesting feature article in the May 15-21 edition of the NZ Listener magazine (the full text of the article will be available on-line from June 5) that tells of the impact that the poor condition of some of the country’s houses is having on the health of the people who live in them. Here’s the opening few paragraphs:

Sick as houses

by Sarah Barnett
“The woeful quality of many New Zealand homes is making us ill while sucking vast sums out of our wallets.

“Sitting in the back of the ambulance with her two-and-a-half-year-old son was the final straw for Stephanie Topham. She’d put Lucas to bed that night last December, only to have him wake up an hour later, struggling to breathe. The ambos told her he had the respiratory disease croup, and that Lucas needed steroids and a stay in hospital for observation. They noted that croup was unusual in the warmer months.

For the five months before that, while living in a damp, mouldy Papakura rental, Topham and Lucas had suffered one throat and chest infection after another. Lucas, who’d never been sick before they moved there in June last year, was diagnosed with asthma. His croup was the last straw: “We moved out of the house a week and a half after that. I was so glad to see the back of the place.”

New Zealand Homes Compared to Refuge Camp Huts

We’ve blogged many times about NZ’s leaky homes problem and the considerable effects it has on their occupants’ wealth and health.

According to a health expert 3 out of 4 homes in some regions of New Zealand were so cold, damp and mouldy that they were on a par with refugee camp huts….

The Dominion Post December 2008
by Ruth Hill

“At a workshop in Wellington yesterday on the health effects of leaky buildings, Associate Professor Jeroen Douwes of Massey University cited a 2005 study, which found mould in 75 per cent of the 1310 households surveyed.

This is comparable to a study of Palestinian refugee camps, where the rate was 78 per cent.”

Nationally, about 35 per cent of New Zealand households report mould in one or more rooms, compared with 18 per cent in Europe.

A survey by Otago University public health researchers of 33 peer-reviewed studies found exposure to damp and mould raised the risk for respiratory problems -wheezing, coughing and asthma – by 30 per cent to 50 per cent.

Conservative estimates put the direct health costs of leaky buildings in New Zealand at $61 million a year.

Public awareness of respiratory problems associated with damp houses remained low, he said.

“This issue affects potentially tens of millions of people worldwide, and there is a big case for more interventions and research.”

University of Otago public health researcher Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman, who chaired the workshop, said New Zealand’s high asthma rate could well be related to the incidence of damp houses.

Up to one in five New Zealanders suffer the chronic and sometimes life-threatening respiratory condition. Wellington’s Asthma Research Group has found that asthmatics allergic to mould had much more severe symptoms, and were almost twice as likely to end up in intensive care….”

The actual cost of this ‘Leaky Building’ epidemic is estimated to cost NZ$11 billion in repairs, according to the NZ Greens. This equates to about 10% of the country’s GDP. It is so high it could adversely effect the country’s credit rating.

And here’s some information you won’t see mentioned in those international quality of living surveys: