'A tragedy': Wellington's desperate rental rush is crushing spirits – New Zealand Herald

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Urban housing in Newtown, Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell
An Auckland man is disgusted by the quality of Wellington’s rentals after he recently moved to the capital for work.
“The housing stock here is trash for the dollar value requested,” sales manager Jordan Bartlett told the Herald.
Others desperately still trying to find flats are not impressed either. Stressed students, professionals, and young families are among those navigating the city’s annual rental rush.
They are facing up to 60 other people at some viewings, mouldy rooms, and high prices.
Bartlett, 25, is living in a five-bedroom house with one bathroom in Karori, which he and his flatmates collectively pay more than $1200 a week for.
He said it was nothing special and hadn’t been renovated in a good 20 years or so.
“In Auckland, I lived in a house at a similar cost that was equal distance from the city, freshly renovated, two bathrooms, huge open plan living, two-car garage, and five off-street parks.
“[I’m] not sure why landlords down here think they can ask such inflated prices for what they are offering.”
Victoria University student Zoe Mills started her hunt for a flat early in November, but is still without a room.
“It has just been awful. It has been so hard to find a place that is central for university, and doesn’t cost $300, and isn’t covered in mould.”
Mills said the competition was fierce and Facebook posts advertising available rooms often had 20 comments and 40 likes from others trying to secure a lease.
“I don’t want to give up but everyone I know that’s in a similar situation to me, their spirit is being crushed right now.”
TradeMe property sales director Gavin Lloyd said median weekly rent in the Wellington region started at $650 in January 2022 and fell to $600 by November that year.
“Looking at the year ahead, it’s likely we will see prices continue to follow the trend we saw in the last six months of 2022 and stay relatively steady,” Lloyd said.
“Renters in the Wellington region are really feeling pressure from the rising cost of living, and added expenses from rent increases would be a tough pill to swallow in the current economic climate.”
Tommy’s Property Management managing director Harrison Vaughan said there were more than 1200 rental properties in Wellington City listed on TradeMe at the moment.
He said that was more than usual for this time of year – just two weeks ago there were only 800 properties listed.
“Seeing this sort of rapid sharp growth, there are a lot of properties out there. There is a lot of choice for tenants.”
Vaughan expected demand to really heat up after Wellington Anniversary weekend.
“From next week we expect the demand from the students and everything to start really spiking as they try and secure their accommodation prior to university starting.”
Greater Wellington Regional councillor Thomas Nash rents a small flat in Mt Victoria and lives there with his partner and toddler. The couple have another baby on the way and are in need of a bigger place.
Nash said the rental market has been a mission. Of the 12 homes he has viewed in the past two weeks, only two were warm, dry, and suitable for a young family.
“We can stay where we are for the time being and we’re not under financial pressure, so compared to others we’re in a relatively privileged position,” Nash said.
“But this is not how we want our city and our region to run, with people having to scramble and fight over inadequate accommodation if they’re in the position of renting.”
Emma Maguire, a 26-year-old working professional, found out about a week ago that her lease was not being renewed. She has until February 3 to find a new place, and is struggling.
“It’s terrifying, I’m very nervous about it. I haven’t moved for about four years.”
Maguire was prepared to pay $300 a week for a room, or even more if it meant securing a room.
She said the state of the market was a tragedy.
“I’m lucky that I’m in a position where I can afford to pay a bit more, which I suspect I’ll need to do,” Maguire said.
“But students who are coming in for their first or second years are going to be paying way more than they can afford and it’s awful.”
Mass rapid transit, the centrepiece of the city’s $7.4 billion Let’s Get Wellington Moving transport plan, is expected to enable up to 21,000 more houses.
Last year the Wellington City Council set a target, in its apartment conversion scheme, of having 1000 new units either delivered or under contract over the next five years.
The council’s incoming district plan will also allow for higher-density housing to be built in areas like the central city, inner suburbs, and close to public transport stops.
– Additional reporting by Nick James

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