Thursday, June 04, 2015

This should not be happening in New Zealand

A coroner has just found that a cold, damp, leaky Housing New Zealand home contributed to a child's death:

Coroner Brandt Shortland said in a report released on Thursday the 15-month-old girl from Otara in South Auckland died from a brain haemorrhage resulting from a clot.

Emma-Lita had also been suffering from a pneumonia-like illness during the days leading up to her death, Shortland said in his report.

This sickness could not be ignored as a contributing feature of her death, he said.

"I am of the view the condition of the house at the time being cold and damp during the winter months was a contributing factor to Emma-Lita's health status."

The house, where Emma-Lita lived with her parents and siblings, was described as "very cold and not getting much sunshine".

There was no carpet in the house, only floorboards.

When it rained the family had to use a bucket to catch the drips from a leak in the hallway ceiling.

"In my view the house unfortunately was unhealthy for this family.

"It is entirely possible the condition of the house had contributed to the pneumonia-like illness that Emma-Lita was suffering at the time of her death."

This should not be happening in New Zealand. It should not be happening in privately-rented accommodation, and it sure as hell should not be happening in a state house. The failures here are so blatant that Housing New Zealand's approach can only be described as one of pure neglect - especially when the costs of fixing them are trivial to a state agency. But instead of doing their fucking job as decent landlords and a decent state agency, and fixing the problems with this property, they left it to rot - and let a kid die.

No property should be allowed to be rented in such a state. Landlords should have a basic duty to ensure the homes they let are warm and dry. And the duty on state agencies who deal with the most vulnerable is even stronger. National has made a lot of noise about how they're improving the state housing stock, but clearly they're not doing it fast enough - and kids are dying as a result. And while the survivors now have a new home, the description of it ("a standalone four-bedroom home with carpet in the bedrooms and hallway [but not elsewhere?], drapes throughout the house and electric heating in the lounge [but not in other rooms?]") doesn't exactly fill one with confidence that Housing New Zealand is fulfilling its moral responsibilities to its tenants.

This is why we need to ensure a warrant of fitness for rental housing, including state housing. The government has dragged its feet on this. If they hadn't, and if Housing New Zealand had had clear legal obligations to ensure the houses they rent are fit for fucking purpose, maybe this child wouldn't be dead.