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Disappearing rental stock: Rent malcontent


Local rent crisis under the microscope

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The housing crunch in Wairarapa has extended to the rental market, with available properties at an almost all-time low.

These graphics have been created with data from Tenancy Services New Zealand.

On Monday, there were just 16 available rentals across the region advertised on TradeMe; five in South Wairarapa [four in Featherston, one in Greytown], one in Carterton, and 10 in Masterton.

Real estate agents confirmed they had almost no rentals on their books either.

There are almost 200 families on the government’s emergency housing list in the region.

This does not include people moving to Wairarapa for work or for other reasons who do not need social housing.

Even as the Times-Age wrote this story, the number of rentals on TradeMe dropped from 17 to 16.

Brent Woodmass, Property Brokers area manager for Wairarapa, said the company used to have a property rental list, but they do not now.

“We have had no list for about 12 months. There is nothing on the books.

“People are waiting for listings, and they get filled as they come in,” he said.

He said many in emergency housing and hotels were waiting for a home.

Woodmass said the shortage was due to a combination of factors, but it came down to a lack of properties.

Many rental properties had been sold over the past six to 12 months as owners decided to realise capital gains in a rising market.

These were often bought by owner-occupiers and tenants were forced to leave.

“A lot of people are coming back due to covid, and they all have to be housed.

“There aren’t enough houses for people who need somewhere to live.

“It’s very sad and frustrating, and there’s no light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

Mark Childs, sales manager for Ray White Wairarapa agreed, saying rental market shortages mirrored the sales market, if not worse.

“The market is very tight, and rents are high.

“We don’t have enough houses. There are more people who need houses than there are houses for them.

“If a tenanted house gets sold, there’s a strong chance an owner-occupier will buy it.

“I really feel for the tenant, who will struggle to find another rental.

“Our team will do what they can to help them find another home.

“I find that part very sad.”

He said the government needed to address the issue.

Local government representatives were also frustrated.

South Wairarapa Mayor Alex Beijen said the council recognised it was a big and growing problem, comparing it with Queenstown a few years ago.

“Since the pandemic started, we are seeing more out-of-town buyers wanting properties in rural areas.”

He said new builds alone would not solve the problem, especially for lower-income families.

“It takes time to release land for subdivision, but that isn’t the only issue.

“We could put 1000 sections on the market, and it wouldn’t affect affordable housing one bit.”

Beijen said the government’s policies needed to address the shortage of housing in Wairarapa.

“The government needs to find a combination of ways to address the housing problem,” he said.

Masterton Mayor Lyn Paterson said while the council had limited ability to impact the availability of rental accommodation, providing housing options for vulnerable groups was important.

“Housing remains a priority for the council and the proposed construction of 25 pensioner units on vacant council-owned land at Panama Village is part of the draft Long Term Plan, to be consulted on in April.

“The council’s preferred option is to fund and build 15 one-bedroom and 10 two-bedroom units.

“The alternative option in the consultation document is for the council to make the land available for someone else to build more public housing.

“The council continues to work to encourage both private development and social housing. That includes continued discussions with Kainga Ora.”

Carterton Mayor Geg Lang acknowledged the pressure that the shortage of rental properties was putting on communities, “not just in Wairarapa but right across New Zealand”.

“Carterton District Council is working hard on its affordable housing research with local research firm Planalytics.

“This work includes assessing the current housing environment and what the council can do to support central government in the affordable housing space.

“We have also just completed public consultation on the Draft Eastern Growth Structure Plan, which identifies the eastern side of Carterton as the most suitable location to accommodate the increasing Carterton population, new housing, and businesses.”

While the housing crunch shows little sign of easing soon, renters could still maximise their chances of success.

Childs gave some tips for would-be tenants and said good landlord references were key.

“The type of person who would be successful are tenants who have looked after a property and are up to date with their rent,” he said.

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