Public housing tenants have been forced to live in toxic conditions, with one mother watching her child’s health degrade.
Public housing tenants have been forced to live in toxic conditions, with one mother watching her child’s health degrade.

Tenants’ tales of mouldy misery in public housing complex

DAMNING medical assessments of residents in a public housing complex have revealed they are suffering "disorientation, nose bleeds and chest pains" while living in toxic mouldy conditions.

Tenants of a Milles St, South Hobart, public housing block said authorities had rejected their requests for housing transfers after they raised concerns about the worsening issues.

Matthew Rooke, who has been living at the complex for the past two years, said he sleeps in his car to escape the clammy conditions, which he said were "deteriorating" his health.

He said maintenance works had been undertaken, including the removal of carpet, but said mould was reappearing at the hillside unit which loses direct sunlight midafternoon.

"My health is my main concern. I'm an asthma sufferer and my breathing has just got so bad since living there," he said.

"From day dot I've been getting scorching headaches. The roof's been leaking for a long time, it doesn't cope well with the downpours."

Matthew Rooke has been sleeping in his car as the unit he is living in in South Hobart has been overtaken with mould. Picture: ZAK SIMMONDS
Matthew Rooke has been sleeping in his car as the unit he is living in in South Hobart has been overtaken with mould. Picture: ZAK SIMMONDS

Three separate medical certificates issued over the six months to April "urgently" recommend the 42-year-old be transferred to alternative accommodation "due to his health being severely affected".

"He is still in an old unacceptable accommodation. He had to leave the mould-riddled unit and lived in his car and a friend's place," the Long Beach Medical Centre report reads.

"His respiratory symptoms improved when he was away. When he had to come back to his mouldy unit, he started to feel very unwell in only two days.

"He has woken to strong smell of mould with confusion, forgetfulness and severe headache and he cannot function. He showed me photos from his unit and they are horrible and disgraceful."

Matthew Rooke with some of the mould inside his South Hobart unit. Picture: ZAK SIMMONDS
Matthew Rooke with some of the mould inside his South Hobart unit. Picture: ZAK SIMMONDS

The medical certificate lists Mr Rooke's headaches, disorientation, dizziness, watery eyes, skin sores, chest pains and nose bleeds were due to the "home pollution".

A Department of Communities Tasmania letter Mr Rooke received this week says eligibility guidelines found he was not eligible for a housing transfer.

Nikira Russon said she was concerned her daughter Isla's recent respiratory illness was linked to living at the unit complex.

"We've seen mould grow on Isla's bed and the carpet has a moist feel which Isla crawls on," she said.

"I've had to take her to the doctor a few times because she's been sick with it. It's been a waste of money paying to address reappearing mould."

Nikira Russon, with nine-month-old daughter Isla Stone. Picture: ZAK SIMMONDS
Nikira Russon, with nine-month-old daughter Isla Stone. Picture: ZAK SIMMONDS

Natasha Richardson, whose unit bathroom doesn't have a window or a fan, said she had seen a drop in her and her daughter's health since moving into their mould-affected unit two years ago.

Ms Richardson said she had been unsuccessful in her attempts for a transfer.

A note on her front door instructs visitors to avoid contact with her due to her illness.

Tenants Union Tasmania solicitor Ben Bartl said the union had received several complaints of mould appearing in public housing dwellings.

"While governments pump hundreds of millions of dollars into private households and their ability to renovate properties, perhaps similar dollars could be given to public housing providers so their housing renovations can bring houses up to liveable standards," he said.

Mould on the windows in a South Hobart unit. Picture: ZAK SIMMONDS
Mould on the windows in a South Hobart unit. Picture: ZAK SIMMONDS

A Housing Tasmania spokesman said inspectors determine whether the cause of mould issues is structural, or the result of cleaning and ventilation habits of tenants.

"If the cause is found to be structural, Housing Tasmania will repair the problem and remediate the property," he said.

"If the cause is found to be the responsibility of the tenant, Housing Tasmania offers advice on how to address the issue."

Martin Bohata, from Healthy Homes Tasmania, performs a mould test on a public housing unit in South Hobart. Picture: LUKE BOWDEN
Martin Bohata, from Healthy Homes Tasmania, performs a mould test on a public housing unit in South Hobart. Picture: LUKE BOWDEN

 

Unit's test corroborates public housing concerns

A MOULD tester has revealed his health concerns about a lack of ventilation and the presence of moisture at a South Hobart public housing complex.

Inspecting a unit at the Milles St housing block on Thursday, at the Mercury's request, Martin Bohata, from Healthy Homes Tasmania, said "condensation problems" with the unit appeared to contribute to worsening mould growth.

Mr Bohata said test results were several days away, but "it doesn't take a scientist to see the black mould on skirting boards".

"Those units have no roof space, and possibly no insulation. They are incredibly hot in summer and cold in winter. The leaky gutters are a problem," he said.

"The unit bathroom doesn't have an extraction fan, which is bad."

 

Supplied photos of mould inside a South Hobart unit.
Supplied photos of mould inside a South Hobart unit.

 

Documents showing public health laboratory sampling at a neighbouring unit, seen by the Mercury, showed mould readings at 3000 Colony Forming Unit (CFU) in some rooms - a number Mr Bohata said signified an underlying moisture issue.

"You wouldn't receive high readings like that following one laundry accident, for example," he said.

"The reading is high, but the question is how the samples were taken. It typically suggests an active environment where mould is growing."

A resident from where the public health tests were recorded, Matthew Rooke, said his requests for a housing transfer had been rejected by Housing Tasmania, despite the high readings and medical reports confirming living at the unit was adversely impacting his health.

The Mercury understands Housing Tasmania has investigated maintenance concerns for Mr Rooke's unit on a number of occasions over the past couple of years.

Originally published as 'Disorientation, nose bleeds and chest pains': Life in a public housing complex



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