Marfell grandmother Irene Owen dons a heavy jacket, gloves and a woolly hat just to sit in her lounge without freezing.
The 58-year-old sickness beneficiary is too scared to turn her heat pump on for fear of what it will cost her and is doubly reluctant to use it until Housing New Zealand properly insulates her flat.
"They thought it had been done in February 2010 but when I moved in I told them it wasn't. They said it would be done by winter 2011. Then I was told I was on the urgent list for 2011/12. That ended in June. Guess who still isn't insulated," Mrs Owen said yesterday.
With a heart condition contracted during breast cancer treatment in 2000, Mrs Owen moved from Waitara to Marfell in December 2010 on the orders of doctors.
"They said I needed to be closer to the hospital because of my condition."
But she says the move has done nothing for her health.
With patchy insulation in her ceiling and nothing under the floor, she claims she can only afford to heat one room of her flat during the colder months.
"It's like a prison. This is where I stay.
"This is where I sleep sometimes," she said.
Housing installed a 5.5-kilowatt heat pump, but Mrs Owen says she cannot afford to run it until her home is properly insulated. Until then she favours a 1.5kW oil column heater, though winter electricity bills still gobble up as much as 20 per cent of her weekly $175 disposable income.
"That's what I have for everything after rent. I have to pay for the doctor, prescriptions, food, power, clothes.
"Please Housing New Zealand, insulate the place to save me money, to keep me warmer, and to make me happier so I don't have wear so many clothes and I am able to do my knitting."
Her insulation shortage means her 2-year-old granddaughter Madi is also lacking in winter warmers, because Mrs Owens can't knit.
When Mrs Owens house gets too cold it exacerbates her lymphoedema which, like her heart condition, is an illness from her cancer treatment.
When the house is cold it means both her arms swell and be-come too painful to move, preventing her from knitting for Madi.
Housing New Zealand was contacted yesterday about Mrs Owen's insulation shortcomings.
A spokeswoman said they would be able to answer questions about her situation today.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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