Dr Lance O'Sullivan challenges Minister of Housing after visiting appalling state home

By Jessica Tyson

Dr Lance O'Sullivan has issued a challenge to the Minister of Housing after witnessing the "appalling" living conditions of a solo mum and her two sick boys living in a state house in Auckland.

In a video posted to Facebook O’Sullivan said, “On my second day of working as a GP in Auckland I was confronted by something I never thought I would see in this city.”

“I met a 28-year-old solo mother whose working hard to bring up her two kids and brings in her four and nine-year-olds to see me.  Her youngest child is chronically unwell and sick with respiratory problems. I asked her why.  She looked at me and said, Dr. Lance, I think my home is making my kids sick.”

She told O'Sullivan the reason she thought her children were unwell was because of the cold, damp house they live in- which is owned by Housing New Zealand (HNZ).

O'Sullivan visited the home and was shocked by what he saw.

“The house was cold damp and there was mold on the walls and ceilings and there had been water running down the inside of the windows in the bedroom where the boys sleep.”

The mother told O’Sullivan that over the nine years she's lived there she's asked HNZ many times to fix the problem.

“They've been once.  They came to wipe the mold off the ceilings and off the walls but they didn’t fix the problem. There's still water coming into the house and making her kids sick. She told them what the problem was. They needed to fix the gutters. But they told her, ‘We haven’t got the equipment. We'll be back,’ and they haven’t.”

O’Sullivan ended the video saying, “I’m issuing a challenge to the Minister of Housing to talk to the Minister of Health. I can't fix these kids if you can't fix their homes.”

He’s also set up a Facebook page, My House Makes Me Sick for other families to tell their story to the minister.

Response from Ministry of Housing and Housing New Zealand

Rereātea made contact with the office of the Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Phil Twyford. In a statement, a spokesperson said this is an operational issue for HNZ.

A HNZ spokesperson told Rereātea, "Clearly, something has gone wrong with this property and we are finding out what has happened. We have contacted our tenant and will be meeting her this afternoon."  

The spokesperson said HNZ spends a $1bil annually on maintenance and improvement as part of their Warm and Dry programme.

"This involves double-glazing, insulation, thermal quality curtains, triple weave curtains in living areas, dining rooms and bedrooms, a fixed form of heating in the living area, ventilation systems in the bathroom and kitchen, carpet in the lounge and bedrooms and no bare floors elsewhere, plus other modern materials and fittings."

The spokesperson said urgent repairs have a callout onsite response time of within four hours.

Standard job completions for non-urgent work take around six days.