Damp, cold and mouldy: The other housing crisis

Damp, cold and mouldy: The other housing crisis

We've seen the warnings, and survival stories, about illnesses brought on by cold, damp, mouldy homes. But not every child who falls sick from the likes of rheumatic fever comes out okay.

"A number of children die each year from what we call housing-related hospitalisations," says professor of public health at the University of Otago Philippa Howden-Chapman.

They also include pneumonia, asthma and other respiratory conditions in this category. In fact, Prof Howden-Chapman estimates badly insulated homes send as many as 50,000 children to hospital every year.

She says Housing New Zealand is attempting to do a good job, but attention also needs to be placed on private rentals.

"Over a quarter of a million of the children who are in households that are in poverty live in private rental housing. And there are basically no standards there. You're not required to have a heater; it's not required to be insulated. And that seems to me completely unacceptable. "

On Friday, Newshub showed other victims of the housing crisis -- families being forced to live in their cars -- and yesterday we revealed some tenants are paying almost $400 a week for a garage roof over their head.

Prime Minister John Key says the passing of the Residential Tenancies Bill will demand better levels of insulation and other provisions.

"The challenge here of course is if we push too hard on the landlords and demand heating devices and that the heating is actually turned on and all those things, that inevitably has to flow through to rents."

For Prof Howden-Chapman though, the investment in children is something you can't put a price on.

"The greatest social investment that we can make is the health of our children. We know that houses are making children, particularly children in very low-income households, very sick."