New research supports CPAG’s call for a housing WOF and boosted incomes
CPAG (Child Poverty Action Group)
says that new research from the University of Otago
provides a solid foundation for why the Government must not delay instating a comprehensive Warrant of Fitness for
tenanted homes in Aotearoa-New Zealand, and boosting family incomes.
The recent study led by Dr Tristram Ingram found that almost 20 percent of hospital admissions for acute respiratory
infections in children under the age of two years could have been prevented through having healthier housing conditions.
The researchers studied 188 children who were admitted to hospital with acute respiratory infections and 454 control
patients - those who saw their GP either with a respiratory illness which did not require hospitalisation or for a
routine immunisation. They found that children who became ill were significantly more likely to be in poor quality,
rented homes, experiencing poverty and living in crowded situations. Dampness and mould were common housing factors.
Frank Hogan, Housing and Children’s Rights Spokesperson for CPAG says that it is past time for the Government to fix an
issue that is tragically impacting on the lives of so many young children.
"Recent developments in Residential Tenancy Legislation and a new Healthy Homes Guarantee Act have set minimum
requirements for insulation, smoke alarms, draft-stopping and temperature control in main living areas, but it does not
go far enough to prevent children from getting sick," says Hogan.
"Many houses in Aotearoa will be exempt from the insulation standards, and will not be protected from dampness
adequately. A chronic problem with overcrowding means that moisture builds up in houses that are already hard to heat
and keep dry, and infection can spread rapidly and reoccur. The new laws are helpful, but they don’t provide the answer
"Not only should housing be required to meet minimum standards, tested to be compliant for health and safety - including
mould-free - but many more affordable housing options need to be provided to reduce the need for families to live
together in crowded situations," says Hogan.
"We have over 11,000 households waiting for a state home, and the list is growing faster than houses are being built.
Incomes are a huge factor for children who are affected by housing-related illnesses.
Families, particularly those whose primary income is from a welfare benefit, are finding it harder and harder to afford
their basic needs, including housing.
"Young children and babies are particularly vulnerable to acute respiratory conditions when they are living in
conditions that are not fit for purpose. They are more at risk of developing secondary infections, or recurrent illness
that lead to developing bronchiectasis, a disease that leads to lifelong scarring on the lungs and can be fatal," says
Dr Nikki Turner, CPAG Health Spokesperson.
"Bronchiectasis is rarely seen in high-income countries, and the high rates in New Zealand children is heart-rending and
"Tragedies like the death of little Emma-Lita Bourne from pneumonia
due to her very cold damp house can be prevented through adequate Government intervention."
a comprehensive housing Warrant of Fitness, and changes to the Residential Tenancies Act to provide tenants with
greater security and protection are needed urgently.
Moreover, family incomes must be boosted so that children are able to have all their needs met. It is becoming
impossible for families to survive without house-sharing, and incomes have fallen too far behind real costs.
"We want to see many of the recent recommendations by the Welfare Expert Advisory Group
expedited into policy urgently, so that we can see a vast improvement in children’s health and life outcomes," says