David Clark | Issue 12

David Clark | Issue 12

Winter and housing

I recall my student winters well.

Particularly memorable was my Crown Street flat where the sun set at 2:30pm – with ice still on the windows. I spent nights in my Swanndri and sleeping bag, huddled in front of the small log-burner in the “lounge.” I suspect these are conditions many of you will relate to.

The day I cracked and turned the wall heater on is still the stuff of legend amongst my then-flatmates. Having popped down to Gardens New World, I returned to find my flatmates – a hanging jury – sullen-faced, arms crossed, “occupying” my bedroom. The way they tell the story it involved a Hawaiian oasis in North East Valley – and a power bill they’re still paying off.

Last year I visited a constituent with a young family, living in the same house I flatted in 20 years ago. I was shocked to find there had been little improvement. Sure, the occupants keep it a little cleaner. The four colours of mould that grew in the bathroom back in the day are now managed more aggressively. But the insulation has not improved, and no clean heating has been introduced.

On the good news front: a Cosy Homes free insulation retrofit is available to 1,500 Dunedin houses. This is accessible for some students. You can see the qualifying criteria by visiting righthouse.co.nz/services/government-funding. If you or someone you know fits the bill, get in touch with EECA approved providers Right House (0800 744 569) or Smart Energy Solutions (0800 888 766) as soon as possible. The offer is limited, and work must be underway by the end of June.

Properly insulated houses improve lives. Poorly insulated homes cause lifelong health problems for those who live there, and this ultimately costs the health system and taxpayers down the track. Of course, there’ll always be someone from a previous generation banging on about how you’ve gone soft. Ask my grandfather. He lived in a shoebox, had to walk barefoot for miles to school and back each day, in the snow, uphill both ways …

Regardless, I believe that nobody should live in a cold, damp, unhealthy home.
This article first appeared in Issue 12, 2014.
Posted 4:32pm Sunday 18th May 2014 by David Clark.