A recent report undertaken by the Auditor-General’s office has uncovered a backlog in maintenance throughout the public housing sector. Many tenants are left to face health issues and are forced to live in damp and mouldy conditions.
The Auditor-General found a $330 million shortfall affecting maintenance contracts, and declared funding for public housing maintenance inadequate.
“Public housing is ageing and increasingly not fit for purpose,” the report stated.
“To operate within its means, it is balancing its budget by reducing maintenance and upgrading of existing properties and capital programs.”
Penny Tralau from Mould Rescue sent professional mycologists to examine the mould in Kellie Elliott’s apartment.
The report found an elevated level of Fungal Hyphae, which is a moisture dependent mould species.
“The block was under maintained or at best minimally maintained,” Ms Tralau told City News. “I had a scientific backing to take to Housing NSW.
“The place was uninhabitable as at this level the moulds are mycotoxin-producing.”
Ms Tralau said she has heard rumours that the building was to be destructed in five years, possibly as a reason for avoiding maintenance.
Ms Elliott, a single mother and public housing tenant, has been forced to remove herself and her four-year-old daughter from their Waterloo apartment due to the recurrent mould infestation.
“The smell of mould and rising dampness is throughout the whole house,” Ms Elliott told ABC-TV’s 7.30 program.
“All my pillows and all my linen get mouldy.”
Ms Elliott has recently suffered pneumonia, while her daughter has had respiratory problems due to the condition of their home.
Confronted by the Auditor-General’s report and large numbers of complaints, the Department of Family and Community Services acknowledged that there is a problem.
They are currently trialling call centres based in Blacktown and the Hunter region to improve performance for maintenance contract systems.
The Auditor-General found the act of reducing maintenance contracts to balance budgets stands as an indictment of Housing NSW as the landlord.
City of Sydney Councillor Irene Doutney, who lives in public housing, said mould is the biggest complaint from tenants at the moment.
“As a public servant, I feel obliged to help, but I’m getting nowhere with the department,” she said. “They are just not interested in a fix.”