Killer houses only happen because of ignorant lazy tenants

The Media party are still pimping out the housing crisis, focusing this week on cold, damp, mouldy houses.

They forget that those properties have housed literally thousands of people over decades before now…and somehow they all managed to live quite well.

Now, however, they are killer houses.

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. “

I’ve had asthma and a bout in hospital with pneumonia and my parents’ house and my houses were never cold, damp or mouldy. I remember well my mother coming into my room and throwing the windows open to air the house and wiping the windows. If we were cold we put on a jumper or a coat.

It seems to me that basic living skills are the root cause of the problem. Blaming the government for a legacy of decades is just all too convenient.

What is really happening is that tenants are just too bloody lazy to air their house and perform basic cleaning duties. The fact that they are unemployed only serves to highlight the pathetic nature of their situation. It’s not like they are too busy working to air the house is it?


– Newshub


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  • Rob Knox

    Grew up in a State house in Lower Hutt in the 50s and 60s. Cold as hell in winter but we put clothes on, had kerosene heaters, let the air in as much as possible. We got colds etc. but I do not remember seeing homes with the mould we see on TV now unless the house was a dive. These houses had no insulation at all so parents took measures to ensure their children were kept warm and the houses kept aired and cleaned. The people with mouldy houses are now basically lousy housekeepers with little knowledge about how to live well in a cold climate.

    • murrayirwin

      …but it’s not a cold climate anymore – Global Warming has taken care of that – right?

      • Rob Knox

        That’s right Murray – lol. Forgot to mention that we did not have carpets as of right either.

  • Union Jack

    It’s amazing how people on welfare have the most time on their hands yet the places they live in are always the biggest dumps around.
    Let alone open the windows they can’t even be bothered picking up the rubbish or the kids toys out of the yard.
    The average state tenant just camps in the house and could not give a stuff about the place.

  • dennis

    I notice that a lot of kids are very thinly dressed in the winter. Another left leaning academic probably being paid by the taxpayer coming up with some outrageous figures that can’t possibly be verified. 50000 indeed!

  • Jerseyman

    “You’re not required to have a heater;”
    OK then lets fix that. Make it a requirement that at the time of signing the tenancy agreement the tenant must furnish proof of ownership of a heater.

    • johnandali

      And a working smoke detector.

    • kereru

      No guarantee they’ll use it, of course. Can’t afford to pay the power bill, etc.

  • Not Clinically Insane

    Next they’ll blame Govt for the basic lack of living skills….

  • Brian Smaller

    Our house is one of those hundred plus year old farmhouses with twelve foot high ceilings. No insulation in the walls and the pink batts in the ceiling have seen better days. In winter we live in one end of the house that is easy to keep warm with the wood burner and occasionally fire up the fire place at the other end of the house. Other than that it is a couple of extra blankets on the bed and put a hat on in winter. Our house would be condemned by modern standards of insulation, heat retention and so forth. But doors and windows get opened except on the most inclement of days so mold is not one of the problems we have to deal with.

    • D-Rad

      I grew up in one of those! We didn’t have ceiling insulation though. But my parents did completely re-line all the walls with GIB board in the 80’s. Surprisingly, I don’t have asthma, not allergic to a damned thing.
      Interestingly, my grandfather grew up in that house, and he died at 90 in February. Never had asthma, not allergic to a damn thing.
      We were never cold, we had two wood fires, one in each living area, carpeted bedrooms and night-store heater in the hallway. Our house was never mouldy because my mum cleaned it properly.
      Halfway down our driveway was a brick house, that my great-grandad built for his sisters when they came out from England, in the 1930’s, when my other great-grandad lived in it (he died when I was 5), it was always warm, clean and dry. When my grandma started renting the place out, it developed a smell… as a kid I just thought that’s what the house smelled like, it was mould. Now whenever I smell that smell I think, that’s my great-pa’s old house.
      People just don’t know how to keep a house clean and dry, the amount of places I see with windows and curtains shut all day drives me mental. Also I’m 28, its not a generational thing, its a common sense thing!

    • Old Chook

      Sounds like you are describing our 96 year old house, also a farmhouse which still has scrim walls in some rooms. Windows get wiped down every morning in winter to avoid rotting the sills etc and then opened to let the air circulate.

      Not only would our homes be condemned by the Media party BS, but it doesn’t bear thinking about as to the condition they would be in if some of those ‘poverty stricken’ people lived in them.

  • Embeeare

    Straight out of Wikipedia –
    “In December 2014, Howden-Chapman and her research programme were awarded the $500,000 Prime Minister’s Science Prize. She was the first woman and the first social scientist to win the prize.”
    Is this, therefore, the first time it actually is John Key’s fault???
    Or maybe that 500k should be included as part of Labour’s donations because it looks like a hit to me …
    Now if she spent that money to research the quality of parenting in NZ I’d stand and applaud …

  • rua kenana

    This obsession with private rental houses is getting increasingly hard to swallow.
    Government-owned houses, council houses, private houses, Maori houses (which no doubt it’s totally racist to even mention as a possible problem) are presumably not free from damp and mould and stuff either.
    If the Govt or Philippa or the Labour party or others such want to get taken seriously they might at least attempt to show they’re not just biased lefties that can be safely ignored.

    • Kopua Cowboy

      I had reason to visit a house on marae land 3 years ago. It had a dirt floor. Several of the farms I have worked on have had houses on Maori lease land, and they have been in a similar condition- with families being put up in them at different times.

  • Christie

    I grew up in a killer house – in Liverpool, UK, no less, where the winters were WAY colder than here. Our house had ONE heat source – originally a coal fire, and later a gas fire. No heating in bedrooms. Ice on the inside of windows in the winter. We wore warm clothes, we had blankets. We weren’t in poverty – this was normal. And there was no mould, no serious illness – we just wrapped up when it was cold. Fairly obvious if you ask me.

    • Rob Knox

      I agree. UK in winter – brrrr. It is all about managing the environment you live in – not expecting someone else to take the blame because you are too lazy to keep you house clean, aired and tidy and to cloth your children appropriately.

    • kereru

      I remember one particularly bitter winter in England when we went to bed with all our clothes on – including a scarf, gloves and woolly hat, with a coat thrown over the bed. Have people become weak these days, or what?

  • Hedgehog

    I think one of the things she also missed was the number of people in a house. I had the misfortune to catch 5 mins of a story on the TV, that was focusing on the so called “Killer houses” And there are 9 – 10 people living in a 2 bed state house. I thought there would be limits to the people you can cram into a state house, obviously these are ignored or not enforced.

    • johnandali

      And I understand that you’re not allowed to have dogs in a State house. If that’s true, is the rule enforced?

  • Dave

    Howden-Chapman does some amazing work, but she also needs to pull her head in, the main cause as per the article is how people live in their homes. Perhaps Phillipa might like to go back to the Papakowhai study conducted by Beacon Research, a lot of measures to insulate, heat and improve homes. But, without ventillation, not much changed. This study was run in homes in Papakowhai, private homes mainly, and with owners who mainly knew how to live in their homes.

    Not opening windows for ventillation = mould. It is that simple, unfortunately its also due to the great unwashed, the lower socio economic ones who WILL NOT open their windows, as they still believe they are letting heat escape, heat they cannot afford. Its all about the money honey, their lack of it through previous bad choices.

  • Observer

    Exactly right. I’ve seen letters to the editor from people who lived in these houses growing up making the same point. The media seem to think the current tenants are too stupid/lazy to be expected to take basic steps to keep the places in order.

  • Aucky

    My parents have a lot to answer for having brought me up in three successive killer houses. No insulation, a single coal fire, no carpet, ice on the windows in winter but worst of all was my mother’s insistence on opening the windows and making us help her in keeping the house clean and doing stuff like wiping the paintwork down with Janola and water on a regular basis. As for the greens and veges that my father grew in the garden and were force-fed to us,well, words fail me.

    • Mav E Rick

      A coal fire too!! So its them who is causing this warm weather we are currently enjoying!! They do have a lot to answer for.

    • KatB

      Gosh your coal fire has bought back memories for me. We had a coal range at home and your comment reminded me of the coal man coming to deliver a sack or two of coal into our coal scuttle outside. Dad used to cook our toast for us each morning over the hot embers in the firebox. Best toast ever.

      • Christie

        Me too – I remember the coal man – always filthy, covered in coal dust – carrying huge sacks of coal. I wouldn’t know where to start as to how many Health & Safety rules they would break nowadays!!

    • Metricman

      “Luxury, we lived in cardboard box on dirt road, tell that to the kids today and they won’t believe ya'” – Monty P at their best. ?

      Actually we were much the same growing up except for the coal fire. (used to dream about a coal fire)

  • Mav E Rick

    I still cant work it out, how people who bleat to the news media about their woeful financial position, unsuitable housing etc etc…but have 5 kids or more. There was women bleating on The Nation program over the weekend about her woeful position, but had 5 children, living in a two bedroom house with her parents. The thing is, they have been in this grossly unsuitable house for a large family for a couple of years, yet she has a new born baby – only a few months old, making the total number of kids 5.

    How can they not see that they are adding to their problem, not solving it? On this basis, how does their problem then become the tax payers problem? I’m confused. I know that I couldn’t afford to bring up 5 kids the way that I would want to, yet for others in our society it seems that they dont give any consideration on the logistics or financial cost of raising their kids. Its a worry.

    • johnandali

      Unfortunately, our educational institutions appear not to be teaching children the meaning of “personal responsibility”. They’re probably being taught about their “rights”, but not of their “obligations”. And in my opinion, you can’t have one without the other.

    • WBC

      If we are to strip away all the falsehoods and “oh poor parent” platitudes that are endemic in these sort of stories, the decision to have another child when you clearly can’t afford to raise it properly is child abuse and nothing less. This is as unfair on the child as any other form of child abuse and it is about time it was reported as such.

      We need to protect these children and we need to help them grow into successful competent adults. I don’t think we can do that by putting the family first as the family is clearly a failed entity.

      We need to support the children while somehow ensuring there is absolutely no gain for the parents by producing more children, probably a reduction in welfare received by the parents in fact; this would at least show them that there is a cost not a profit from breeding.

      • Christie

        This is why KidsCan exists – as supported by Whaleoil. I am probably going to become a sponsor, but I think it is very sad that we need this sort of charity in New Zealand.

  • Herb

    There is no such thing as a killer house – just ignorant or neglectful parents. The fact that she plays the ‘poverty card’ positions her more a political activist than a scientist – hence her choice to rely on ‘estimation’ rather than facts. Just another card carrying chardonnay socialist looking to assuage the guilt attached to her life above the ‘poverty line’.

    • exactchange

      And keep getting taxpayer funding for research which, big surprise, never fails to support the agenda.

  • cows4me

    It’s not so much the cold that’s doing them in, it doesn’t really get cold in the world’s most livable city, it’s the humidity. High humidity without a high air flow breeds germs. Maybe the government has been to successful and the houses are now to air tight or maybe it’s just cool to keep the widows covered and closed and doors shut.

    • Wheninrome

      I think you have nailed it.
      I grew up in an old house wooden floorboards, mother smoked, the windows were wide open winter and summer to get rid of the smoke smell.
      not till I played badminton in a hot airless room (badminton hall Auckland) got very hot playing, got a bug which rapidly became pneumonia, by the time I got to hospital I was virtually healed as I kept playing sport right through the bronchial pain (3- 4 weeks or so), but then I ate fresh fruit vegetables and cooked home made meals, I am fairly careful in moist humid air it is far worse than cold.

  • Whitey

    Rheumatic fever is not housing-related. It’s an autoimmune disorder which sometimes happens when the patient has a severe streptococcal throat infection that is left untreated. The only way a child gets rheumatic fever is if they have been quite sick for quite a while, but the parents have not taken them to the doctor.

    I thought doctors’ visits were free for young children, but that doesn’t really matter because even if I’m wrong about taxpayer-funded doctors’ visits, people who can’t or won’t take their kids to the doctor when they’re sick, shouldn’t be having kids.

    • Anthony

      Darwin at work

    • Rick H

      Remember, this is all about the same type of people who on the way to emergency centre with an almost dead child, stopped in at Macca’s for a feed.

  • RightyTighty LeftyLoosey

    We are building a house at present (in AKL) and had to rent a house whilst doing so. We ended up renting a house (a 1950’s uninsulated brick cottage) that was covered in mould and had to spend a day cleaning it before we could move in. We have been there for 15 months now and have no signs of mould. We make the effort every day to ventilate and air the place out. In the winter we have 1 dehumidifier that we move from room to room. It really isn’t that hard or costly.

  • In Vino Veritas

    There are no households in NZ living in poverty, because if you were living in poverty, you would not have a house.
    There is a rather marked difference between living in poverty and being poor.

    • johnandali

      I think the definition of poverty is wrong. Poverty in New Zealand is a condition caused by people whose poor upbringing or personal habits, such as smoking, gambling, drinking or drug-taking, result in them having insufficient intellectual ability to utilise their incomes efficiently to enable them to adequately support themselves and their dependants.

    • Metricman

      In Fiji it is a luxury to have a hut with a poured concrete floor.

      • TL W

        Oh goody lets let life get like that for our darkies and povs too, oh and single mothers…eeeewwww

        • Spaceman Spiff

          I think you should have a lie down –

  • Old Dig

    I guess the houses are colder because of global warming :)

  • Huia

    Like everyone else I grew up in an uninsulated house, ice on the windows in the winter, no carpets, just hand made hooked rugs Grandma had made.
    We were terribly deprived as Mum made us help to keep the place clean and the windows were always open.
    I think another thing today is, people dress their kids in Winter clothes from the cheap shops and it is acrylic clothing, this isn’t warm usually teamed with brushed cotton trackpants, again practical but not warm enough.
    Mum knitted us woolen jerseys and we wore thick tweed pants and skirts, not to mention singlets (sometimes with a square of camphor sewn onto the singlet).
    The acrylic clothing is easily laundered, but is not warm even if it looks as though it is. Fleecy Pj’s and a thick dressing gown (all home made) and slippers and socks were what we wore during the evening after bath time.
    The house didn’t kill us, our parents made sure of that.

    • Rick H

      Very true.
      When I was a kid – -I’m 56 now – all the clothes we wore was good quality, and in my case, most had already been out-grown by at least 1 older brother, sometimes 3. We always wore singlets, and usually a shirt and then a jersey or whatever; when it was cold.

      Remember Billy Connolly, I think it was, spent a week living in a tent in the arctic.
      Brought with him totally everything of the “allegedly” best cold weather clothes, sleeping bags, etc etc that money could buy.
      The locals laughed at him, and reckoned he’d freeze to death – and in the first night, he tossed them all out and got into the hand-made stuff the locals had offered. Warm as toast from then on.

  • TL W

    My friend who was the most immaculate. cleaning obsessed, health conscious mother lived in a house that got so damp the old wallpaper in the bedrooms inside of the external walls would roll down everyday. They paid $300 per week rent for it about 6 years ago. The landlady did nothing even though the entire time she was building a house to Housing Corp spec just behind it for the sole purpose of renting to Housing Corp. She worked in the then Minister of Social Welfare’s Paula Bennett’s office.

  • TL W

    If you work and have kids you don’t have time to clean mould everyday. If you are paying rent you SHOULDN’T HAVE TO!!!

    • Nige.

      Ever since we moved out of caves and into dwellings good hygiene has been the key to survival because nature is always trying to reclaim.

      Clean clean clean. If you want to be healthy you need to be clean. That’s why we wash and brush our teeth.