DAMP AND COLD: An 85-year-old’s damp council flat has given her health issues over the past five years. Photo: Charles Anderson.

Housing for elderly ‘not good enough’

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The 85-year-old widow calls it her “fishbowl”. She calls it her “river”.

Every winter for the last five years her windows have streamed with water.

And every year, for the last five years, she has gotten sick. This winter was the worst. She is still trying to kick the pneumonia that filled up her lungs. The pensioner had to go to the doctor three times.

“It’s such a struggle to come back from. It’s hard to breathe,” she says.

Even though they are only a few years old, her curtains in the Stoke unit crawl with black mould.

And she struggles to keep the one-bedroom unit warm with just one wall heater.

She lived there with her husband, briefly, until he died about four years ago.

“I don’t want to cark-it just because the flat is damp,” she says.

Almost every winter morning is spent mopping up the windows.

But her home is not a private rental – it belongs to the Nelson City Council which provides accommodation like this to pensioners in need of affordable housing.

The woman says every year Opus, which manages the council’s 142 community housing units, asks what can be done to improve the flat.

Every year the woman tells them that the flat is damp. Every year, she says nothing is done.

“All I want is for them to make it a bit dryer.”

The council says that all its units have an extractor fan to take out moisture during cooking. However, the woman has none.

The council has sent around its eco building adviser who told the woman that a heat pump would help and he plans to lobby for that to happen. The woman does not want to be named for fear of jeopardising that possibility.

But her neighbour Edna Jefford has no such qualms. She is younger and says she can handle the damp, but believes it is not good enough for the older residents.

“I’m grateful to have a place like this, but for older people whose health is not 100 per cent, it is not good enough,” Edna says.

“They suffer in silence so need people to speak for them. It’s a simple thing and they deserve it.”

She believes a heat pump will go a long way to solving the units’ issues.

“They paid their dues and they deserve better treatment.”

Opus did not respond to requests for comment but Nelson City Council communications manager Paul Shattock said in a statement that the council was aware of the resident’s case, but did not address wider issues about the condition of the units.

“The health and wellbeing of our residents is paramount and we are working with this resident to connect them to appropriate services to remedy their situation.”