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Australia Mould infestations at Sydney social housing block leaves residents living in fear

21:03  22 february  2021
21:03  22 february  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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Maja Sablewska standing in front of a door: Melissa Smith has had to move in with her father due to the mould infestation. (ABC News: Jack Fisher) © Provided by ABC Health Melissa Smith has had to move in with her father due to the mould infestation. (ABC News: Jack Fisher)

Melissa Smith ended up in hospital after a mould infection took hold of her social housing unit in south-east Sydney.

Black mould began to grow on the carpet of Ms Smith's apartment in Chifley in 2019 and it gradually spread to the ceiling and windows.

Many of the 25-year-old's belongings have been ruined by the mould but the impacts on her health are more serious.

Ms Smith wasn't sure what was causing her respiratory issues until she mentioned to her doctor that she lives in a unit riddled with mould.

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"My doctor [has] given me numerous doctor certificates which say I live in rising dampness and it's affected my asthma and I need to be moved," she said.

Ms Smith has difficulty breathing at night and often wakes up feeling a tightness in her chest.

"I'm always scrubbing, and I think that's what's made my asthma worse, getting down and scrubbing all the mould," she said.

Ms Smith became so unwell last week that she had to spend three days in hospital and doctors found her mild asthma was now severe.

The apartment block Ms Smith lives in is owned by the NSW government but social housing tenants are managed by St George Community Housing (SGCH).

She has pleaded with SGCH to take action but she said all her requests for help had fallen on deaf ears.

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Ms Smith was visited by a contractor hired by SGCH to inspect the mould issue in 2019 but felt she was being "blamed" for the mould.

"He went back and told housing that I don't ventilate my house," she said.

"They told me it was my issue and I had to fix it all myself.

"They're saying it's my fault."

A spokesperson for SGCH said the contractor didn't find evidence of a direct cause for the mould, such as a leak.

"The advice from contractors was the mould could be treated with cleaning and ventilation, this advice was communicated to the tenant," the spokesperson said.

Ms Smith said that case managers from SGCH had never come to inspect the property directly.

"They don't believe what I'm saying because they haven't come out to see for themselves," she said.

"I feel annoyed and angry because I'm not lying, and I wouldn't go out of my way to lie about anything like that."

A spokesperson for SGCH told the ABC that contractors had came to the apartment in December last year to conduct a clean but they couldn't gain access.

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"This appointment has been followed up twice," a spokesperson said.

The SGCH spokesperson and Ms Smith both told the ABC they were attempting to organise an inspection of the apartment.

After being discharged from hospital last Wednesday, Ms Smith made the decision to move back in with her father while she waits for a transfer to a different home.

"It just feels like somewhere I want to get out of, I'm not comfortable here, I'm always upset or annoyed."

She said she will have to return to the apartment a few times a week to clean the home to make sure it doesn't get more infested.

Neighbour Mary Scruse has lived in the same unit block for more than eight years.

The mother-of-two said mould had been growing in her bathroom and bedrooms for six years.

"I got onto [SGCH] and they're in the process of sending someone else to have a look," she said.

Ms Scruse said representatives from SGCH had replaced blinds and cleaned the bathroom but the mould had grown back.

"I get worried it's going to affect our breathing ... in the bedrooms especially, it's right above us and we're breathing it in."

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