University student works 30 hours a week to live in mouldy, damp and cold flat

  • 19/07/2022

A university student says mouldy walls, cold winters and windows that drip with condensation is the "norm" for many Kiwi students who flat. 

Canterbury University students Cleo Vernon and Brad Down walked AM through their flat on Tuesday morning, sharing what it's like to be a university student. 

It comes after an inquiry into student wellbeing in Aotearoa found two-thirds of Kiwi students regularly cannot afford the basics, and one in six say their flats don't meet their needs. 

Vernon says the findings highlight the reality. 

"I think it is quite indicative of the realities that many students face, not only Canterbury obviously, but all over New Zealand."

She said during the winter months the flat becomes cold and mouldy but only has a "very old and decrepit" heat pump to keep them warm. 

"We do put it on, which leads our power bill to be around $250 for a flat of five, so it's not exactly the best thing in the world but we do try and keep warm for the most part."

Vernon has been a student for five to six years now and told AM it doesn't get easier. 

"It just feels like a never-ending cycle," she said.

"A lot of it is just working a lot to make ends meet, so at the moment I'm working 30 hours just so I can have a slightly higher quality of life, but obviously if you look around it isn't exactly that great."

Vernon told AM her flat has everything it needs to survive but the lack of double glazing and walls covered in mould make living hard. 

"But this is just the norm, it feels like the rite of passage when you're a student to go and live in these terrible flats."

And when issues are raised with the landlord about heating and crying windows, Vernon feels there's no sense of urgency. 

"I guess they see a new heat pump, or double glazing, or just like fixing the window panes and everything is a bit more of a second priority."

Down agreed, pointing to the issues only being addressed when new tenants move in. 

"The only time things are going to get fixed is when the next group moves in, so while you're here you've lived with it for so long, so you can carry on living with it," Down told AM. 

"I think that's a pretty standard scenario for a lot of places."

Watch the full interview above.