"It's been a long road"
COVID-19, and the public health and social measures (PHSM) enacted in response, have impacted groups of people differently with housing a likely factor in these disparities. Rachel, a Master’s in public health candidate with the University of Otago, has undertaken a qualitative project exploring the experiences of public housing tenants here in Aotearoa NZ during the COVID-19 PHSM. Seven interviews with public housing tenants in the greater Wellington region were carried out between July and September 2022, meaning all but the final two interviews were conducted while Aotearoa NZ was still under the Traffic Light System.
In summary, tenants described increased feelings of uncertainty about “what’s around the corner” both in terms of future pandemic scenarios, but also more broadly. They understood wellbeing both personally and collectively, reflecting on how the pandemic has affected others in their life particularly young children. In terms of dwelling and neighbourhood characteristics, tenants referenced the importance of green space, and the need for dwelling interiors to be flexible to changing uses (e.g., working from home, a family member isolating while positive with COVID-19). Compounding the difficulties of COVID-19 was the financial precarity experienced by some tenants. As it is outside pandemic times, the importance of adequate financial support and health-enabling housing are further reinforced as necessary for pandemic preparedness.
Rachel has also developed a list of recommendation for policy makers and public housing providers which she intends to share more widely in due course.