12 Jun 2015

The state of state housing

From Nine To Noon, 9:08 am on 12 June 2015

A Titahi Bay woman is fighting to warm up her state house following a coroner's report which said a cold, damp state house contributed to a toddler's death.

Emma Panapa

Emma Panapa Photo: RNZ Liz Banas

Emma Panapa is 37 weeks pregnant and the mother of two asthmatic boys living in a cold, draughty house in Titahi Bay, north of Wellington.

She says she has been trying for years to get Housing New Zealand to do something about the gaps in the windows, which let in so much air that the curtains billow.

Ms Panapa is worried for her family's health - especially after a coroner's report released last week found a cold, damp state house may have contributed to the death of two-year-old Emma-Lita Bourne in Otara last year.

Housing New Zealand has accepted the house was not up to standard and has apologised to the family.

Due to give birth to another child in the next few weeks, Ms Panapa took to social media earlier this week to vent her anger, stating: "I feel like burning down my house and getting an assault charge on them".

Ms Panapa was soon visited by police and was then told by Housing New Zealand that she had 90 days to find another home.

However that threat was withdrawn, after she said on Facebook she would be on Radio New Zealand this morning.

She acknowledges she shouldn't have made the threat, but said it came out of deep frustration about her cold home.

Housing New Zealand says it has no record of Ms Panapa's complaints about gaps in the windows and that it will be meeting with her today to discuss working together so she can keep her tenancy.

It says it takes a zero tolerance approach to threats and intimidation by tenants made towards them.

Housing New Zealand says it will work with Ms Panapa in the coming weeks to see what it can do to ensure the property is as warm as possible.

The Minister of Social Housing admits some state houses are not up to standard, but is adamant a lack of money to fix things is not the problem.

Paula Bennett told Nine to Noon it's not a matter of failing to spend money.

"What it is, is actually making that sure we've got the tradesmen and that we've got the programme of work going on, and we're getting to the right houses at the right time and upping that in as far as getting the speed of the maintenance programme going."

Ms Bennett says in same cases it is better to tear a house down and rebuild, and there's a massive programme around that happening.

The Government's been criticised for failing to make sure some of its new developments target the most vulnerable, while its plan to give responsibility to community groups has been beset by problems.

Ms Bennett says she makes an absolute commitment to ensuring at least half the homes in new social housing areas are set aside for people in need.

She says that if some social housing providers do not want the properties on offer, they will be sold to the private sector.

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