Last week in New Zealand, the Productivity Commission released a Housing Affordability Report. The report included a review of a housing, insulation and health study involving 1,400 households from seven regions. It showed dramatic health improvements brought about by interventions such as replacing inefficient electric heaters and unflued gas heaters with heat pumps, wood pellet burners and flued gas heaters. These positive effects were more marked for low-income families.
In New Zealand, excess moisture is a major problem leading to mold and ill-health effects and the dry heat produced by pellet stoves was an excellent remedy.
One of New Zealand's leading researchers on inequality in health and housing, Philippa Howden-Chapman, pointed out that the lowest income families spend about 13 percent of their income on heating, while the wealthiest only about 2 percent. Around 1600 extra people die in winter than in summer due to poor housing and a lack of heating.
Lack of affordable housing and heating is not a new phenomenon. Two thousand years ago a pregnant woman and her carpenter husband could not find adequate or affordable lodging, and the woman had to give birth in a manger.
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