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Living in Public Housing - is it affecting your health?

Community Member

I'm living in public housing and the fibro house is so hot in the summer I got heat exhaustion and my little dog had to go to the vet with heat exhaustion. In winter it's so cold we have to stay outside most of the day as it's warmer (it gets sub-zero here in winter) and we can't afford the heating. There is no air conditioning or way to cool the house in summer.

Before this I lived in a unit block of public housing and it was frightening being a woman living alone as some of the men would throw things at my windows at night and threaten me. The police had to be called again and again, it was embarrassing and frightening as the men would get into fights with each other. I thought when I moved to an old house in a normal residential street it would be different, but they have had such bad tenants here in the past the neighbours are suspicious of me - I am an older woman living alone with my small dog, I had to stop working and go on the pension for health reasons. There is no support here and I am left entirely alone. I am now trying to get a transfer out but the paperwork is dreadful and the wait times are very long.

I am grateful for having an affordable home but I wish it was better insulated for hot summers and cold winters and that I felt safer. I dread the summer, last summer was like being baked alive in this house.

Is anyone else here living in public housing and how do you find it?

19 Replies 19

Hi Sleepy,

Thanks so much for your comment - I can so relate to getting tired from trying to keep warm in winter, and also the dark home feeling gloomy and depressing. Isn't it interesting how much housing can affect your mood and energy levels! I'm sorry you're also in accommodation that doesn't sound up to standard, and rents are so expensive in Australia... how is your place in the summer? How do you manage heat waves?

It's sad in such a wealthy country we still have such poor housing standards for poorer people.

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi Hanna,

It really is an interesting observation that you made and I can imagine a lot of people struggle with these things. Thanks for sharing your experiences!
I think in Summer it might be okay - I wasn't there most of the Summer as I was in hospital but probably not great. I don't have any cooling at all so will have to see if the sort of darkness and lack of sunlight will mean its okay. Do you find the Summer a lot worse than the Winter?

It's very hard and risky moving and trying to find a suitable place, I move a lot and wanted to stick around but I'm not happy here.

Did you get through the Winter okay and find it managable in the end? I feel like I put in a lot of effort to stay warm, and it helped, but it was exhausting and draining on my own. It would be nice not to worry about things like that and just be soothed and warm...

Hi Sleepy,

I'm sorry to hear you were sick for a lot of the summer... I am in a fibro house and all I can say is never accept a fibro place! - I didn't know anything about it until I moved in here.... baking hot in summer and freezing in winter! Last summer was shocking, both me and my little dog were sick with heat exhaustion it was so hot in the house. I am trying to buy a window box air conditioner for one room for this summer, it's expensive but to give us one room to retreat to in heatwaves...

Winter there is gas heating here but the house was freezing, I got a small portable oil heater for the bedroom from Big W and it was brilliant, you had to put it on a couple of hours ahead of going to bed and close the room off to heat it up, but it helped keep the bedroom comfortable. Otherwise we went out and sat or walked in the sun as much as possible, the house was too cold to be comfortable to stay in during the day.

Not having a comfy home during hot or cold weather is exhausting as we had to keep going out to get warm or cool and neither of us (my dog or me) are young...

Moving at the moment in rentals is very hard... so many people moving around.. last summer I had several box fans, the ones that sit on the floor, you can put them on top of a bookcase or chest of drawers if you want. A tip is the best one is an old one from an op shop - the plastic wings inside the fan should be stiff, not bendable, the new ones are all bendable and they don't fan the air so well, old ones are better made, I got it from an op shop and it's brilliant and it must be the oldest fan... and spray a spray bottle of water across the fan breeze to create a soft spray for your face..

Also lots of ice cubes in water and wet towels around your neck help.

I hope you go OK in the summer! The worst thing is trying to sleep on hot nights..

So nice to talk, come back if there is anything else you'd like to talk about... thanks for coming by...

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi Hanna!
Have just been catching up on the forums and saw your lovely reply - sadly with these housing situations we don't know until we move in sometimes 😞

I lived on a top floor once under a hot, tin roof and I remember being shocked at how poorly the tin roof operated in insulating the place - the Summer it was a heatbox. I never would've considered the roof-type when moving in.... so many things to keep our minds on... sometimes we're just so ready to move that we say yes ...

I'm sorry you struggled through this Winter..... it was a cold one... That is so horrible feeling like you can't relax because of the cold.... I know that feeling pretty well! I can understand how difficult public housing can be on health and wellbeing, and I know many people struggle with it. Heating and cooling is so important, isn't it?

Have you ever had really nice accomodation? What did you like about it? I have found that the housing, as well as the area I live in, impacts me a lot. Safety, friendly people, ect... My friends in public housing tell me how much it impacts them if they feel good with their neighbours. And that is so unpredictable... and not something one can tell before you move in....

Hope you and Sam are keepin well and enjoying your walks. Take care

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member
ps that airconditioner sounds really good I hope you can get one .... that would be a big help for you two I hope. Whatever you do I hope the Summer goes okay....

Excerpt from a report I'm reading:

As a series of reports by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) (e.g. see AIHW, 2019) has shown, Australia’s public housing stock represents some of the poorest-quality and unhealthiest housing in the nation. This is due to the age of much of that stock, backlogs in maintenance, and the selling off of better-quality properties over the past fifty years. Much of the remaining stock was built to a relatively low standard and has now passed its reasonable economic life (i.e. though occupied, it is not able to be maintained or retrofitted cost effectively).

It's an interesting report called: Warm, cool and energy-affordable housing policy solutions for low-income renters.


Thank you indeed Katy and why is that no surprise to me I wonder???!!! The last place I lived in also had leaking gutters, when it rained it poured indoors onto the carpet and furniture...

Here we either freeze or bake as we have no insulation at all, on top of the rusted gutterings and windows that are jammed shut! Also flyscreens have not been replaced after they've fallen off...

Thank you for that report I will look it up! Cheers.

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member
this is the way we are letting down our community, it sounds like small changes got make a big benefit to a lot of people.

Hi Sleepy, I think you are in a private rental aren't you? They need more security and power for renters in the private market too! Do you have a good real estate agent/landlord/landlady? I hope so it makes such a difference if they look after you.... Would love to hear your thoughts.

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi Hanna

I'm in a private rental - I think the standards are pretty low for the maintenence they can keep up in the property -

renters don't have much rights. You are always on your toes trying to prove to the landlord you are a good tenant.
My landlord is I guess okay but not amazing