19 Apr 2020

Lockdown highlights risks of poor accommodation, housing group says

3:57 pm on 19 April 2020

Low income families being forced to spend lockdown in cold damp houses have a greater risk of contracting Covid-19 and dying from it, a Wellington housing body says.

Wellington Rain; Housing;

Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Dr Roger Blakeley from the Wellington Regional Healthy Housing Group (WRHHG) said overseas research shows people on lower incomes are more likely to have respiratory illnesses associated with poor housing which makes them more vulnerable to the disease.

Already more than 1000 children are hospitalised each year due to illnesses from bad housing, he said.

"The Covid-19 lockdown has highlighted that being at home is not as safe for some as it is for others," he said.

''The worst affected people are children, lower socio-economic groups and Māori and Pacific communities are the ones who have the highest incidence of problems associated with cold, damp housing.''

The Deputy Director of He Kainga Oranga/ Housing and Health Research Programme at University of Otago, Nevil Pierse, said research showed that insulating houses was very effective in reducing hospitalisations from respiratory conditions.

He urged the government to invest in 'shovel-ready' projects that will upgrade and insulate New Zealand's housing stock.

The WRHHG supported a proposal by its member organisation the Sustainability Trust for $25 million in funding from the government over four years to insulate 10,000 homes.

Dr Blakeley said work like this would also generate jobs and stimulate the economy, and there were also significant economic benefits to preventing people getting sick in the first place.

"We have this opportunity to change the trajectory for many vulnerable families if we invest in retrofitting current housing stock. The government response to Covid-19 must prioritise warm, dry, safe housing for all," he said.

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