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Several hundred thousand Kiwi families 'experiencing unacceptable living conditions'

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

AMI Insurance and Habitat for Humanity NZ are on a mission to help improve the lives of 75,000 Kiwis living in housing need; this survey is the first step to help understand the scale of the issue.

The inaugural Aotearoa Housing Survey by AMI Insurance and Habitat for Humanity NZ has revealed a stark reality - several hundred thousand New Zealand homes are cold, damp and expensive to heat.

Key results include:

Four in ten households (42%) are worried about dampness in their home. 16% (approx. 300,000 households) go to bed earlier than usual to stay warm when it gets very cold in winter. 8% (approx. 145,000 households) all stay in one room and only heat that room to stay warm when it gets very cold in winter. One in three households (30%) need basic repairs done inside their home. Almost one in ten households are concerned about significant mould in their home. For households that have significant areas of mould, 20% state that mould/dampness/condensation worsens the breathing of those living in the house. Private renters are significantly more likely to be concerned that their home is too cold compared to those who own their own home (60% versus 40%).

The survey was commissioned as part of the three-year partnership between AMI and Habitat. It has provided the two organisations with critical information to help understand the scale of the issues New Zealanders are facing so that they can strengthen their response and help New Zealanders enjoy better living conditions, particularly in the colder months.

Alex Geale, AMI Insurance’s Executive General Manager Distribution says, "Together with Habitat, we hope to help improve the living conditions for as many New Zealanders as we can. This survey has helped us identify the key areas of focus, and given AMI sees a 60% increase in home claims over the winter period, it’s a particularly relevant time to be starting this conversation."

Alan Thorp, Habitat for Humanity NZ’s Group Chief Executive Officer says, "This research is a timely reminder that the rising cost of living is going to have a deeper impact on those households already struggling to make ends meet. As a community housing provider, Habitat’s goal is to make a positive difference for New Zealanders, especially those facing some of the biggest challenges the survey recognises, and we can offer practical steps Kiwis can take to protect their homes, whether they own or rent them."

INSULATION

39% of households use electric plug-in heaters to keep their homes warm and dry. 26% of households have a wood burner or open fire.

"According to AMI’s data, in winter, the average number of claims for burnt carpet is almost four times higher than in summer. Fires often start when chimney flus have not been cleaned or ash catches on fire, or in some instances, through electrical fires," says Ms. Geale.

Mr Thorp adds, "Insulation is important for any home as it keeps the heat in and energy costs down. Heat escapes through windows so it’s important to ensure windows are properly fitted and covered effectively with double-lined curtains. Curtains are a safe and affordable buffer that help keep warm air in the room to help heat your home."

VENTILATION

42% of households are worried about dampness in their home. Almost 1 in 10 households are concerned about significant mould in their home. For households with significant areas of mould, 20% state that mould/dampness/condensation worsens the breathing of those living in the house, including children.

Mr. Thorp says, "This research has shown that while the majority of homes in New Zealand are habitable and decent, there are several hundred thousand Kiwi families that are experiencing less than optimum living conditions, and in severe cases, will lead to a range of issues - including ongoing poor health problems that may require hospitalisation such as asthma and rheumatic fever due to cold, damp and overcrowded living conditions."

Habitat offers some simple ways New Zealanders can help ensure better ventilation in their homes. For example, open windows and doors for at least 15 minutes each day.

SAFETY AND SECURITY

38% of households need basic repairs done outside the home. A third of these (35%) have been a problem for more than three years. 30% of households need basic repairs done inside their home. Of those, 36% have been an issue for over three years.

According to Ms Geale, a lot of internal issues are linked to damaged water pipes. "Twenty six percent of our home claims are for water damage that are not caused by weather, and while not all of those are for water pipes, they certainly play a large part.

"In the deep south, pipes can freeze over winter. With the added pressure of very cold weather, they can burst or break, leading to significant damage - especially if the residents are away from home, and don’t notice the leak straight away."

As much as possible, Habitat recommends keeping on top of repairs in a timely manner to prevent issues from becoming critical problems.

For those who are renting, AMI encourages open communication with their landlords to ensure the proper insulation, ventilation and safety and security measures are being put in place.

Ms. Geale concludes, "Our hope is that by bringing this issue to the fore, and by working closely with Habitat, we will be able to help homeowners, renters and landlords alike, identify the ways in which they can improve their living conditions or those of their tenants this winter, as well as help them avoid costly issues."

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