By Chelsea Boyle
A Masterton family has had to split up – with some now living in a caravan – after a “near impossible” search for a rental property.
As of yesterday, Aleecia Henderson and her partner will be living in a caravan at the Clareville showgrounds, while two older children and a 9-month-old granddaughter she cares for now staying with friends.
She says the search for a Masterton rental proved “near impossible”, a sentiment backed up by advocate Trevor Mackiewicz, who says many others are in the same predicament.
Now in Clareville, further away from where she works as a private caregiver in Masterton, she will add a growing petrol cost to the list of expenses.
“We tried Mawley Park and they are fully booked out until Easter, we tried the park in Carterton and they are fully booked out, the only one available was Clareville, so we are very lucky,” she said.
Miss Henderson had been searching for a new rental property since August last year, prompted by a forewarning from her landlords that they were going to sell up and retire.
The juggle between fulltime work and searching for rental properties has been incredibly stressful and frustrating, she said.
“I don’t think I am the only one in this predicament.
“We will go to rentals to view them and the whole street is covered in people.
“I have been in Masterton pretty much all my life and I have never ever come across this before.”
Her one regret is not buying her previous rental when she had the chance, but it seemed like an unwise move at the time.
“I am kicking myself I didn’t buy the property.”
Wairarapa Advocate Service Charitable Trust chief executive Trevor Mackiewicz said they had never had so many people come to their service for help with accommodation.
“It is a major problem now.”
Mr Mackiewicz had been helping Miss Henderson try find a new rental property, and said they had checked with real estate agents and listings on Trademe to no avail.
“There is just nothing available around Wairarapa,” he said.
“It’s critical. We are finding that the owners of these rentals are selling up and are selling them to people who want to move in themselves, they don’t want to rent them or anything like that.
“There are probably a lot of houses on the market but they are not for rental purposes.
“It’s getting to the point where people have to hire out caravans, but then where are they going to put it?
“The caravan parks are booked up right until Easter.”
He said the shortage was putting major pressure on young families.
“It’s worse because it is the start of the school season, it makes it really hard for people with kids to try and find places.”
Miss Henderson said she also had to rehome family pets including a cat and a Border Collie named Lassie.
“[Lassie is] really old and she has always been with me.
“I can’t understand why so many people in Masterton when you apply for a place will say ‘no dogs’.”
Mr Mackiewicz remains hopeful he can help get Miss Henderson and her partner into a new rental by the end of week so they can reunite their family.
He is hoping somebody might come forward with a rental property.
“She’ll keep on looking, and we will keep on looking as well.”
Rentals on the decline
LJ Hooker property manager Keith Archer said the pool of available rental homes had been steadily shrinking.
“What’s happened is a lot of people have bought places in 2007 at the height of the last property boom, for whatever reason they have wanted to get out of them since 2010 and without dropping the price, big time, they haven’t been able to do so.
“So a lot of those people have become accidental landlords.
“Now that the property prices have come right Wairarapa-wide, a lot of people are putting their houses on the market.”
The competition has increased with more people looking in Wairarapa, with an influx of buyers from Auckland and Wellington adding to the fray.
“I have never seen this much interest in properties for sale or for rental properties.”
Mr Archer said people with pets were copping the brunt of the problem.
“That’s a big issue.”
Two tenants who looked equally good on paper, but one of them had a dog, 9 times out of 10 the landlord would pick the one that did not have a dog, Mr Archer said.