Wellington Propertyscouts

What do you do when you’ve got no home? - 2nd Feb 2017

With rents rising and incomes not keeping up, it’s getting desperate out there.
 
A street in Mt Victoria, Wellington.
Rents are rising faster than wages in Auckland in Wellington, putting the squeeze on anyone looking for a new flat.
 
Searching for a flat, finding a flatmate, or getting a room is a nightmare at this time of year in Auckland and Wellington. Students go home for Christmas, and once university starts again the merry go round of people moving in and moving out begins.
 
There are the emails, texts and inconvenient meeting times. Small talk at viewings that invariably begins with “tell me a bit about yourself”. There’s the pressure to fulfill the golden flatmate adjectives: “easy going, quiet and respectful”.
 
And then there are the flat-hunters who are desperate enough to arrive with the bond already in hand, or are willing to pay more than the asking price. 
 
Statistics show the pressure is ratcheting up. The latest labour market and tenancy figures reveal rents in Auckland and Wellington are rising faster than wage growth.
 
Rents are rising really quite rapidly now ... in Wellington it's becoming really unaffordable.
Rents in Auckland were up 3.3 percent, while incomes had only risen 0.5 percent over the past year.
 
In Wellington, rents were up 8.3 percent compared with incomes up just over 1 percent.
 
"We haven't seen this kind of increase in rent in Wellington since 2007-2008 when things were very tight there,” says economist and Generation Rent author Shamubeel Eaqub.
 
"Rents are rising really quite rapidly now ... in Wellington it's becoming really unaffordable. We know that there is a very large transitory population that goes into Wellington at this time of year - new graduates, new students - so there is a very intense demand for rental properties."
 
With rent going up and rental properties becoming harder to find, some people are feeling left behind.
 
PUSHED OUT
Emily van Velthooven says the Auckland rental market is a minefield of overpriced flats. At the moment she’s crashing on her brother’s couch while she looks for a place with a group of friends.
 
For a three bedroom house, Emily is looking at paying around $600-750 per week.
 
“Initially we were hunting in Grey Lynn and Mt Eden, but we've slowly been pushed further and further out in the city. Remuera and Saint John's are the closest we can get to work at the moment”
 
Van Velthooven works in Parnell and if she lived in Saint Johns it would be about a 45 minute commute via public transport, according to Google Maps.
 
She’s been looking for three months with no luck and it’s starting to stress her out.
 
Van Velthooven thinks that being young makes flatting a lot harder. “The main reason I can’t get a flat is that families [priced out of the house buying market] are going for rentals, which sucks.”
 
WHAT GOES UP IS UNLIKELY TO GO DOWN
Caitlin Gosling, also looking for a flat in Auckland, says she has seen people offer more money per week to secure a property, something she can’t compete with.
 
Her group of flatmates signed up to a short-term lease in October and are now all looking to move together, but she says the market has changed drastically.
 
Properties that once cost $650 a week are now up to $1000, she says.
 
"It's just been so, so difficult. I just think that something needs to be done about it.”
 
"Once rent is secured at a certain price, it's not going to go down even if the price of the property goes down."
 
MOULD, CRACKED WALLS AND RATS
After arriving back in Wellington from travelling in Europe, Agata Marchwika felt she was on the back foot when looking for a place to live. She found that TradeMe listings for rental properties would be taken down only hours after a viewing.
 
At one viewing, the landlord forgot to show but the tenants were home.
 
They said they felt very sorry for the poor souls that sign the lease for this year.
“There was mould on the ceilings and in the bathrooms. The girls living there said that rats were accessing the house under the oven. There was a dripping problem in the ceiling. There was a big crack in the wall too.”
 
Marchwika was looking for a place to lease with some friends and a room in the flat would have cost $200 per week.
 
The tenants finishing up their lease on the house told Marchwika to turn away and never look back. “They said they felt very sorry for the poor souls that sign the lease for this year. And essentially said that they can’t wait to get the fuck out.”
 
WHAT YOU GET FOR $200
Searching for flat in central Wellington, Robinson Yang saw one place he says looked like it had been lived in by squatters.
 
“There was a ripped up mattress on the ground, with Billy Maverick cans everywhere. On the floor there were small plastic baggies and wrapped up little pieces of tin foil.”
 
There was holes in some of the walls and mould on the ceiling. The cost of a room there? $200 per week.
 
Yang gave it a miss.
 
“The worst part was that other people at the flat viewing were super keen. They were looking through and asking questions. I'm like, ‘the fuck?’”
 
THE NUMBER ONE ISSUE
Eaqub says housing should be the number one issue in this year's election and the rental market is the first thing that needs fixing.
 
"The thing is, the last four or five terms of government have failed on housing in every imaginable way. We must make this the number one issue and it is the biggest problem that faces New Zealand society today."
 
Gosling says if the ratio of rent to income did not improve, she would be unlikely to be able to stay in Auckland in the longterm.
 
"It's kind of depressing that I'm 22 and I live in a house that's worth over $2 million. It's just not attainable.
 
"I just don't really know where we would go from here. What is the option? Definitely not to stay or buy a house in Auckland."
 
For the full article go to: http://thewireless.co.nz/articles/what-do-you-do-when-you-ve-got-no-home
 
 

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