Mother upset Housing New Zealand leaves family in mouldy home

Mother fears for her children's health

LAUREN HAYES
Last updated 05:00 12/07/2013
Rebecca Smith
NICOLE GOURLEY/ Fairfax NZ

DANK HOUSE: Housing New Zealand tenant Rebecca Smith and her daughter Maliyah Gavan, 4, are sick of living in a house with black mould and drainage problems.

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An Invercargill mother claims Housing New Zealand is putting her family's health at risk by accommodating them in a leaky and mouldy home they cannot afford to leave.

Invercargill mother-of-three Rebecca Smith said her family's Ross St home was plagued by multiple problems, including flooding, black mould and a leaking bathroom.

Ms Smith moved into the house with her children Maliyah, 4, Jaziah and Ezekiel, both 5, three years ago, and the problems started from day one, she said.

The property was flooded on the first day she visited, but Housing New Zealand assured her the drainage would be repaired and the flooding problem fixed before the family moved in, she said.

Three years later, after numerous complaints, the backyard was still flooding, sometimes causing sewage to back up, and nothing had been done to fix it, Ms Smith said.

"My children can't go outside to play. I can't even mow the lawn."

She was also having to deal with black mould in the house, more than she was able to clean, and believed it had contributed to her daughter's bad asthma.

Ms Smith, who showed The Southland Times around her damp and mouldy house, said she had resorted to moving her children out of their bedrooms to sleep in the living room, where a woodburning fire keeps the damp away.

"I'm not having my children's lives put at risk because of Housing New Zealand."

Ms Smith has also had to bathe her children in the kitchen sink while work to fix the leaking bathroom is completed.

On Sunday, workers had opened up the bathroom wall to fix the leak and left before it was finished, she said.

She was told on Tuesday the work would not be completed until July 27, but, after Housing New Zealand was contacted by The Southland Times, the repairs were carried out on Wednesday, she said.

Ms Smith said she just wanted a healthy home for her family and was feeling stressed and physically ill from all the issues.

She could not afford to rent an open-market property, so had to rely on Housing New Zealand transferring her to another house, she said.

"It's supposed to be an easier life living in a Housing New Zealand house - it's not.

"I try my best as a mother and I just feel so bad."

However, Housing New Zealand says it is committed to ensuring the family has a safe and dry place to live.

Housing New Zealand southern regional manager Symon Leggett said the agency installed a sump at the property to improve drainage "a number of years ago", and visited again in May last year to clear a blocked drain.

Housing New Zealand had not been alerted to the mould problem until this week and had not noticed mould during their visits to the house, but would look into it, he said.

"If there is a mould issue we will, of course, look to address this, and, if any mould is found that is considered a health risk, we will act on this immediately and transfer the tenants."

Mr Leggett said he understood the work on the leaking bathroom was supposed to be completed on Tuesday.

"While work to repair the leak was under way, we made sure that the tenant had access to bathroom facilities. We are committed to ensuring that this tenant has a healthy home for her and her children to live in," he said.

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Despite the Housing New Zealand assurances, Ms Smith said her family did not have access to bathroom facilities until the work was finished.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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