$6b annual cost of tolerating damp, mouldy homes in NZ outweighs price to insulate them - advocate

The cost of people living in damp and mouldy homes outweighs the cost of insulating them, an advocate says.

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New Census data shows almost a quarter of New Zealanders live in damp houses. Source: 1 NEWS

Green Building Council chief executive Andrew Eagles spoke to TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning after new Census data showed almost a quarter of New Zealanders live in damp houses.

According to information collected in the 2018 Census, 35.3 per cent of Māori and 37.3 per cent of Pasifika are living in damp private dwellings.  

"We have a huge issue with our homes - damp and cold, mouldy - so 40 per cent, research shows," he said, adding that is was one of the biggest health issues in New Zealand.

"I think that we need to get our priorities right. We have one of the highest rates of respiratory disease in New Zealand. It's stopping people getting to work. It's stopping our children get to school and it's a huge cost burdened to our country - about $6 billion a year."

Based on 2012 research, Mr Eagles said improving homes with decent insulation would mean a 43 per cent drop in hospital admissions for respiratory disease, as well as a 39 per cent drop in the amount of sick days that adults take off work and children taking time off school by more than 20 per cent.

"It's not that expensive, about $6000 per home," he told Breakfast host John Campbell.

"We've got half a million homes like this in New Zealand because we had very low insulation rules through our building code.

"For every $1 we spend improving our home, we get $5 to $6 benefit to New Zealand inc, so that's reductions in costs for health and other things. And the real shame of it, John, the thing I know you'll be disappointed by is that this Government's just put $15 billion into infrastructure, and you know the boost that healthy housing got? $56 million - three per cent."

Mr Eagles is calling for the Government to help with a significant expansion of the Warmer Kiwi Homes scheme. He said it would only cost $3 billion to $6 billion to deliver that solution.

"There's insulating and heating programmes but we're just going way too slow," he said.

"If you look up the warm up Kiwi homes programme, 52,000 homes... over four years, that did get a boost of 9000 homes in the recent Budget, but at that rate we will deal with our half a million damp and mouldy homes it will take us over 40 years, you know. This is just, it's laughable.

"We know the solutions, we know we can get these families healthier and warmer and yet we're holding off this really urgent work."