HRV’s State of the Home Survey - Healthy homes, Healthy Kiwis - 05/08/2015

For many New Zealanders living in a cold home is a long term reality. And with the costs of electricity and fuel on the rise, staying warm throughout the winter is becoming increasingly more difficult for many families. HRV’s 2015 State of the Home Survey findings echo the stories of unhealthy houses we’re constantly seeing in the media. Kiwis are living in uncomfortable housing that is making them and their families sick, cold, and allergy prone. On top of that, between 25% and 30% of hospital admissions are estimated to be due to poor housing.

 So that’s the bad news. But what’s the good news?

On the road to healthy houses

The good news is we’re starting to get things right. Many New Zealanders are using ventilation systems and heat transfer systems to combat damp houses. Not only are these making homes healthier, they’re helping to relieve allergy symptoms and and control in-home condensation throughout the year.

 

State Of Home Survey HRV Infographic 1

What we’ve got vs. what we need

Good ventilation vs. Bad ventilation

Good ventilation is key to discouraging the growth of mould in your home, and to ensuring it is a pleasant environment for asthmatics and the allergy prone.

The large majority of these people (89%) said the condensation in their home was now ok or better than ok – with a third saying it was excellent.

Condensation

Condensation in the home is a regular occurrence for nearly 80% of kiwis, with a third of people experiencing condensation every morning during the wintertime. Combating condensation is an ongoing battle for many families, with people resorting to dehumidifiers and airing the house out by opening windows and doors to let the breeze run through, often despite it being the midst of winter.

Insulation

It's estimated by that as many as 600,000 New Zealand houses have insufficient ceiling or underfloor insulation, and 2015 Government figures suggest 180,000 New Zealand homes still require insulation. Insulation in cooperation with great heating systems and ventilation systems, work to make a healthy and warm home, free of condensation, mould and mildew.

The Government have recently announced amendments to the tenancy laws that will require all state housing to be insulated by 2016, and all domestic rentals must be insulated by 2019. The new law will require retrofitting of ceiling and underfloor insulation in rental homes over the next four years. The requirement applies from 1 July 2016 for Government subsidised social housing and 1 July 2019 for other types of rental housing. There will be some exemptions for properties where it is difficult, or near impossible, to retrofit. Especially those properties with limited space underfloor or difficult to access ceiling spaces. The Warm Up New Zealand scheme will assist in the rollout of this insulation initiative.

Results from our State of the Home Survey show that when the time comes to consider a new home to move to or when renovating an existing home, insulation is by far the most important consideration for people, outweighing other considerations like a good sized section or a good school zone.

How do we make our homes friendly for the risk prone?

Healthy homes help humans stay healthy too. So when our homes are lousy at keeping dry and warm, our bodies will suffer; allergies will be exacerbated, respiratory illness like asthma can escalate, and skin conditions like asthma can worsen with poor air quality. 

Babies & young children

Nelson Marlborough Plunket clinical leader Alison Martin says Plunket regularly deals with individuals living in unhealthy homes where condensation, in particular, is a major issue.  Alison says that people often sleep in communal living areas so they only need to heat one room, saving on electricity costs. But this can foster illness, and without adequate ventilation bugs can incubate in the home and spread quickly. 

Young children are high risk when it comes to winter illness, and we’ve seen the worst of it in the coroner’s findings following the death of two year old Emma-Lita Bourne. Emma-Litta died in August 2014 due to a “pneumonia-like illness” that was potentially caused by her “very cold” home.

Elderly

A study by Otago University researchers found 1600 more people died during the four winter months (May, June, July, August) than in other seasons, and the elderly and infants accounted for many of these deaths. Researchers said that part of the reason for the spike in winter was down to the cold, damp, and poorly maintained homes in New Zealand.

Where are we heading? - healthy homes of the future

HRV is committed to helping bring New Zealand homes up to acceptable living standards. Ventilation, heating and clean water are absolute key components of a healthy home environment. With the ever-increasing coverage of poor living conditions (particularly over this very cold winter), there’s mounting pressure on the Government to put more resources and budget into ensuring our homes are the safe, healthy places they should be.

Additional facts

  • Nearly a third had a household member affected by asthma and another third had someone in the house suffering from allergies.
  • This year a greater number of people (26% versus 20% last winter) said they had moved out of a home due to cold, damp or mouldiness or the effects these were having on household members.
  • A quarter of people felt that their living arrangements aggravate the health symptoms of household members with these conditions. 

We’re keen to hear your thoughts on whether your house provides a healthy living environment.

Further reading