Depleting housing stocks sparks scramble for rentals
By Emily Norman
There is a dark side to the buoyant housing market in Wairarapa.
With rentals in high demand, and Trust House homes at full capacity, many people are scrambling to put a roof over their head.
Last week, Masterton councillors were told there were people were living in crammed accommodation and sleeping in their cars – a result of soaring property prices, rent increases, and a shrinking pool of rentals.
But while police say they are unaware of a homelessness issue, the general picture remains bleak.
Sandy Ryan of Connecting Communities spoke to the Masterton District Council’s Community Wellbeing Committee last week, voicing concerns over “increasingly dire issues around people not being able to be housed at all”.
She said she was in discussions with the police safety team who were working with adults and children who were “sleeping in garages” and elderly grandparents living “in caravans plugged into the shed, with the only access to a bathroom through the kitchen in the main house where another family lives”.
“You can’t correct family violence issues when you’ve got crowded houses and a living situation that is constantly transient,” she said.
“I get people call me every day saying, this is my housing situation.”
She said she was also aware of people sleeping in their cars at Henley Lake and down River Rd.
Masterton councillor Gary Caffell said the situation was a “real problem”.
“Combine that with food banks being overwhelmed by demand and you have a community which still has social problems which simply can’t be ignored,” he said.
“To her credit, Mayor Lyn Patterson is the driving force behind strategies aimed at making life easier for those in need but it is going to take input from the whole community to make those strategies work.
“If we all work together we can make a difference, and the sooner the better.”
Trust House chief executive Allan Pollard said there were more than 100 people on their waiting list for housing, but they were currently at “full occupancy”.
“There are no vacancies,” he said.
“We’ve got two houses currently going through some refurbishment, but we’ve got two families waiting to go into those houses, so we are full capacity.”
He said Trust House rents were put up in February; one- to two-bedroom rentals were increased by $5 per week, and for anything over two bedrooms, rents increased by $10.
Mr Pollard said the rental situation was “really sad and I don’t think it is something we’ve ever come up against”.
“It demonstrates to me that people must be coming from other areas of New Zealand.
“Trust House is currently reviewing a regeneration programme to try to meet demand and more information on this will be released in the coming weeks.”
LJ Hooker Property Investment Manager Keith Archer described the rental situation as a “perfect storm”.
“Demand is definitely increasing. We’re getting more and more enquiries per listing.
“It seems to be quite a few people coming from out of the district, which is interesting, and it’s putting further pressure on the limited rentals too.”
Mr Archer said first home buyers with matured KiwiSavers were now entering the market and were buying up the lower-priced properties that would normally be rentals.
‘It’s really difficult out there’
As the downside of Wairarapa’s booming housing market begins to unravel, some of Wairarapa’s election candidates have their say.
Ron Mark – NZ First
New Zealand First Deputy Leader Ron Mark said there had been “numerous” people coming into his office struggling to find housing.
He said there hadn’t been many cases come out of South Wairarapa – “that’s not to say it isn’t happening” – but there had been many cases from Carterton and Masterton.
“There are people who have been living in rental accommodation for 15 or 20 years, who have had to leave their homes because the landlord has sold,” Mr Mark said.
“Some of these people are women in their 60s, a gentleman in his 70s, I’ve had a younger person, a mum with a young child, it’s pretty traumatic and it’s really difficult out there.”
He said the situation was “a bit of a mess” stemming from “the days when the National Government of the time decided to divest itself of its community housing responsibility and sold all the houses at a fire sale rate”.
“We’ve got a serious problem here, and it breaks your heart when you have some people who are absolutely beside themselves not knowing where they’re going to live.
“The government abandoned its social housing responsibility to the people of Wairarapa a long time ago, and now market forces are killing us all because the government has no capacity to intervene at all.
“That’s fundamentally where it’s all gone wrong.”
Kieran McAnulty – Labour
Wairarapa Labour candidate Kieran McAnulty said it was “of no surprise that there is a real concern here around some people’s ability to find emergency housing”.
“We’re often hearing about people in Auckland mainly who are being put up in hotels because there’s nowhere for them to go, or sleeping in cars, sleeping in other houses, but it’s starting to happen in Wairarapa now, and there is really no excuse for that.
“There are people being put up in emergency accommodation in motels here, and that will come as a bit of a shock for people.
“People can’t contribute to society if they don’t have a roof over their head.”
John Hart – Green
Wairarapa Green Party candidate John Hart said it was “kind of staggering”, and not something that was expected to be seen in rural provincial New Zealand.
“I knew the Foodbank was at record demands, and I guess that is flowing through to the fact that there are a lot more people who are vulnerable and in need of help.
“It’s a real concern. You don’t expect to see that sort of thing out of the main centres.”
Alastair Scott – National
Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott said he hadn’t seen evidence of anyone being forced to live in their car.
“If anyone does know of people who need housing, they should ring me straight away. I haven’t heard any comments or had comments from the mayors or even councillors or any housing provider.
“The main point is, if there is anybody out there, find out who they are and tell them to come to me and we’ll sort something out.”