At risk families jump housing queue
Families at risk of rheumatic fever are to be bumped to the top of state housing waiting lists in a bid to cut the country's unusually high rates of the illness.
The government has set its sights on reducing the number of cases by two thirds by 2017.
"A key component of that programme is dealing with the issues of overcrowding and also cold and damp homes.
"That means families where there is clear evidence of a risk of rheumatic fever, either through overcrowding or one of the family having suffered respiratory disease, will be given priority," Housing Minister Nick Smith says.
The change to Housing New Zealand's social allocation criteria comes into effect in Auckland on October 1 and is expected to fast track 100 families immediately.
It will later be initiated in other areas of the country where there is a high number of rheumatic fever cases.
"The truth of that is whenever you make one group a priority other groups get a lesser one. I don't mind saying to single people, or to couples without children, or to people where there isn't the same level of risk of rheumatic fever, 'actually looking after families like the Katoa family is the government's priority'.
Mr Smith made the announcement today at the Mt Roskill home of the Katoa family whose 11-year-old son Tristin contracted rheumatic fever.
The family of 12 were previously living in a 3 bedroom home nearby.
Their new home is the poster house for Housing New Zealand's Project 324&5.
The $260 million scheme will see 2000 three bedroom houses converted into four and five bedroom homes over the next two years to try and reduce overcrowding.
Kuli Katoa says the new home will be "awesome" for he and his wife and their 10 children ranging in age from five months to 22.
The family previously slept four to a bedroom and shared one toilet.
"Five years we lived there, it was tough. I asked the housing people but we were put on the list. I can understand, it's their jobs. For me and my wife it was ok, but for the kids this is a lot helpful."
Around 4000 people are currently sitting on Housing New Zealand's waiting lists.
A number of other projects are underway to address this, Mr Smith says.
A $2.9 billion programme was announced in this year's budget to upgrade and build new homes over three years.
"Anybody who is looking for a single magic bullet to Auckland's housing problems is going to be disappointed. It's going to be a whole lot of things.
"Waiting lists are always going to be a pressure point. I could bore you stupid with a big speech about all the things the government is doing.
"In Christchurch we're building a new house every single day and in Auckland we've got major redevelopments in Tamaki."
Mr Smith is set to announce another Housing New Zealand development next week.
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