Coffs Harbor public housing tenant says walls leak, Mission Australia denies ‘major’ water damage

Anne sits amid her belongings, crammed together in the small lounge of her social housing home in Coffs Harbour.

Anne, who did not want to use her real name, said she was embarrassed by her living conditions but felt she had no choice.

She said she crammed everything into that room because the walls in the rest of the house got wet every time it rained, which has been a lot lately.

“Of course it’s embarrassing [having] anyone coming in here,” said Anne.

“Because the living room and dining room have gotten all my clothes and linen out of the linen closet.”

Anne’s house first leaked when torrential rain hit northern New South Wales in February 2022.

Mission Australia, Anne’s housing provider, has carried out a number of repairs.

But she said the walls remained damp.

Anne has had mold cleaned from her walls twice within the past 12 months.(Delivered)

Anne said she moved all her belongings into the only room unaffected by the damp in March.

Coffs Harbor received 730 millimeters of rain that month alone.

“I had to get rid of furniture,” she said.

“I had to move it all myself.”

A week later repairs were carried out by a plumber contracted to Mission Australia.

Anne said the plumber identified cracked tiles, a rusty roof valley and a leaking roof fan.

More rain fell three days after they were repaired and the walls were wet again.

Anne provided emails and letters to the ABC which show several more sets of repairs carried out by Mission Australia, including roof repairs and mold removal, in the months since.

A photo of a woman wearing a light turquoise shirt, gray hair, unidentified, points to a roof of a cream brick house.
Anne says she is concerned that the repairs have not solved the problems.(ABC Coffs Coast: Nick Parmeter)

Needs to be rebuilt

Anne’s home is within a proposed redevelopment into a mixed-density public and private housing project which will add close to 500 new homes to the Argyll Street estate.

She feared that her requests might have been given less priority because her home might be demolished.

A spokesman for Mission Australia said it rejected the idea of ​​any link between the redevelopment proposal and the management of repair works.

“Our response to work orders relating to the social housing we manage on the Argyll Estate is in no way affected by the estate’s redevelopment proposals,” the spokesman said.

“All inquiries about the redevelopment proposal plans for the Argyll Estate should be referred to the NSW Land and Housing Corporation.”

A spokesman for the NSW Land and Housing Corporation, which oversees the proposal, said the question was best directed to Mission Australia.

A close-up of photos of flooded property with notes about them.
Anne has documented correspondence about damage to her home.(ABC Coffs Coast: Nick Parmeter)

Great influence of the government’s direction

Tenants Union of NSW chief executive Leo Patterson Ross said repairs were one of the most common reasons people called for advice.

“In social housing, people often feel left behind by the lack of resources in the system,” he said.

Patterson Ross said an increasing transfer of management from public to private had changed the landscape in recent years.

He said that while it initially represented an increase in funds, it also required the private organizations to provide additional services unrelated to their portfolios.

“They also have to provide assessment and housing support products, support for homelessness, all being run from a very limited pool of income that has been collected by tenants,” Mr Patterson Ross said.

Physical and mental strain

Anne said she spent the winter battling a severe chest infection, which she suspected was exacerbated by the air she breathed.

“It wasn’t until I left this house, went down to Port Macquarie to see someone, that the symptoms went away,” she said.

“Later I read it [my symptoms] may be a sign of mold spores.”

A Mission Australia spokesman said Anne’s concerns had been heard in a timely manner.

“Since then we have been in regular contact with the tenant and have consistently attempted to access or have been successful in accessing the property with professional contractors and tradespeople to investigate and deal with the issue,” the spokesman said.

A shot taken from the back of a woman with gray hair, light turquoise top, touching the wall, dining table is behind her.
Anne says the walls in her home are still damp.(ABC Coffs Coast: Nick Parmeter)

Mission Australia said it was unable to access the property on several occasions when inspections or works were scheduled.

“On one occasion the tenant advised that they would not be providing access to the property so planned work was cancelled,” the spokesman said.

“Various skilled tradesmen and contractors have promptly visited the property and carried out minor maintenance work over the last few months.

“No signs of major water damage have been detected.”

For now, Anne still lives in her living room.

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