Wellington’s most mouldy flat is finally getting the recognition it deserves. A City for People shares the grand prize winner of Wellington’s Next Top Mould-el, plus spot prizes.
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Mushrooms, perma-soggy floors, and mummified rats: the biodiversity of our capital city’s “character”-filled rental homes has been flooding the inbox of A City for People. The organisation, which is a coalition of Generation Zero, Renters United and other concerned citizens, had a tough time picking the worst of a bad bunch – but they’ve done it.
The photos and stories witnessed by the judging panel were so wild they had to chuckle. “Because if you didn’t chuckle you would cry,” said spokesperson Marko Garlick.
“You can almost feel yourself getting asthma from looking at all that black mould. Many of our entrants told us they did indeed get asthma.”
The pestilent conditions many renters are living in could be funny, but A City for People says the widespread dilapidation in Wellington rentals is symptomatic of the housing crisis. “We created this competition as a tongue-and-cheek gag in an otherwise fierce and polarising debate,” said Garlick. “We want to show councillors the result of hundreds of hectares of ‘character’ protection and council-enforced housing scarcity.”
Tomorrow Wellington City Council votes on the final draft of its notorious spatial plan. A framework for the next 30 years of housing will be decided by the vote, and there are growing concerns Wellington will keep its track record of building fewer houses per capita than any other region in New Zealand.
Mayor Andy Foster has called the spatial plan “one of the most significant and transformational pieces of work by the Council for many years”. However, a private briefing last week has given A City for People cause for concern as it appears the council might back down on initial plans to remove demolition protections for pre-1930s homes in the inner suburbs.
“Decades of inaction mean house prices and rents are out of control, while badly maintained properties rot from underneath us,” said Garlick. “We’ve chronically underbuilt over the past few decades, and have the worst housing stock and fastest growing rents in the country. On top of that, our population is forecast to grow up to 80,000 people by 2050.”
The protection of these pre-1930s houses is done in the name of “character” and “heritage”, but the renters living in them are breathing the wrong kind of culture (mould, it’s mould). Without further ado, let’s get to the unlucky winners.
Wellington’s Next Top Mould-el, 1st Prize
Suburb: Mt Cook
A huge congratulations to this Mt Cook flat! They’ve won $610, the median weekly rent for a Wellington home. However, this four-bedroom flat actually costs a massive $920 per week. Some of this value may arise from the “stunning array of heritage moulds” the judges observed in the pre-1930s build.
However, the prize money would cover a dehumidifier, which could suck noxious spores out of the air before they complete their daily journey from wall to lung, and a large supply of Exit Mould.
The flatmate who entered the flat in the competition explained her daily routine included a “swift hop, skip, and a jump” to dodge mouldy floor on her way to shower. She also sends regular prayers to keep the ceiling from crumbling above her and tries not to gaze into the abyss of the blackened shower extractor fan.
Spot Prize: The Shroom Room
This three-bedroom flat is only $760 per week, but the judges point out this bargain is undercut by having to give up living space for a colony of fungi. “They may be cute, but they don’t pay rent,” they said.
Mushrooms love the moist, and this flat has had a leak spilling through its (now unusable) light fittings for a full year. Despite all the wet, one of these lights has managed to catch on fire.
The landlord did not fix the leak, which means the flat is rapidly being terraformed to suit a shroom-based civilisation. The flatties get to experience nature’s carpet instead of their old one, which has rotted away.
Spot Prize: The Wheezy Award
Suburb: Aro Valley
This two-bedroom flat seems more affordable at just $450 per week, but that doesn’t factor in medical bills. The judging panel voted this flat the most likely to give you a lifetime respiratory illness.
An illegally built wall was installed alongside a running source of water, so anything left against or near that wall has grown a layer of pernicious mould.
Spot Prize: The Biodiversity Award
Suburb: Mt Cook
It’s not just mould – all of God’s creatures are welcome in a heritage home. This four-bedroom Mt Cook flat is shared by rats who, like mushrooms, have not yet mastered the art of rent-paying.
It’s sunny, it’s rich with flora and fauna, and it’s just $960 per week. “This beauty has great indoor-outdoor flow,” said A City for People. “The atmosphere in this flat preserves nature the same way this suburb preserves our city’s rich history, delighting tenants with the remains of their once lively rodent friends.”
In addition to the home’s “natural decomposition”, this flat comes complete with old tenants’ junk, wall holes and a broken shower. It’s the Noah’s Ark of rental pests.
Spot Prize: The Storyteller Award
The judging panel felt this entry deserved a special prize for literary achievement. Please find the entry below:
“Great flat if you love living in sub-Antarctic conditions and for those who love water because nothing you own will ever be dry. It was lovely going to bed in damp sheets every night, with the roof dripping onto you, waking up cold just to put on damp and musty smelling clothing.
I was lucky enough to have the only room with insulation and I sure knew it because I could see the outline of each bat moulded through on the roof. The corner walls of my room were made from the corflute sign used to sell the flat that they had taped together, painted over, and placed with long curtains over top. This wall dripped into a puddle on the constant mouldy floor whenever it rained.
Our oil was often solid as it was sub-freezing and we couldn’t use any salt as it clumped even when triple bagged. Black mould was absolutely everywhere and I developed situational asthma in this lovely place. Our bathroom wall had completely rotted through and the tiles were slowly falling off the wall. We had a hole in our lounge floor boards – once a bag brushed against the wall and part of it broke off. Our outside drain was broken so they covered it with a board and our house flooded in heavy rain one day.
Overall a great flat, I would – 10/10 recommend!”
For $610 a week this soggy, 1920s three-bedroom comes with a rotten carpet the landlord will not allow the tenants to remove. The current residents, in their 50s, cannot afford to move anywhere else in Wellington.
Water leaks through a hole in the roof when it rains (and this is Wellington, so). This leaking has resulted in persistent mould not just on the bathroom’s surfaces, but also in its extractor fan.
Suburb: Mt Victoria
Black mould is present on almost every ceiling in this $720-per-week three-bedroom home. However, the panel noted that, depending on your definition of a “bedroom”, and whether that definition included “living room with a curtain down the middle”, there could be four.
It’s not just mould that’s living here: in the past, flatmates have had to push human urine and faeces out of the defective shower drain and into the back yard. More than once.
Not just one hole, not just two holes, not just three holes: like many noble fungi, this flat is covered in large pores. At last count, the tenants had to use 12 separate bowls to collect rainwater heading for the carpet. This has not prevented rot from setting in.
For just $680 per week this three-bedroom villa comes with bubbled wallpaper, rot-induced paint sliding, and carpet holes thanks to the decomposing fibres.
This flat failed all five Healthy Home Standards. The tenants don’t want to brag, but an inspector told them it was “one of the worst he’d seen”.
However, the landlord has, benevolently, given them a dehumidifier – it turns out absolute power does not always corrupt absolutely.