Annette van der Raaij, with son Ronan, 8, and Ash their beloved dog, outside their new home, a bus. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER
A Wairarapa family has moved into a makeshift campsite as the region’s rental crisis reaches “absolutely dire” proportions.
That description comes from a Masterton property manager who regularly deals with homeless parents breaking down in tears in his office.
Annette van der Raaij’s new Mikimiki Rd residence consists of a house bus, a couple of hired caravans, a camping toilet, and a loungeroom and kitchen that have been cobbled together inside an old shed that doubles as a hay barn.
She searched for six weeks after serious leaks forced her family out a rental property and after failing to find a conventional home is camping out with her children on a good Samaritan’s piece of land.
“I applied for everything that suited, usually three bedrooms plus, and they were either gone before you got a reply email back or not suited because I have animals.”
Property Investment Manager Keith Archer said he looked at about three rental properties for Ms van der Raaij, but none of the landlords would take dogs.
So many people looking for places to rent, owners could afford to be selective and those who owned dogs usually missed out, he said.
“It’s absolutely dire, [and] it’s getting worse.
“There’s people in the office crying.
“They’ve got kids, they can’t find anywhere to go — a lot of houses are being sold.”
Ms van der Raaij once owned her own home in the Hutt Valley, but had to sell that after a divorce.
With five children, the youth teacher has been renting ever since she moved to Wairarapa four years ago.
She was forced to move from a rented rural Masterton property after the five-bedroom house began leaking so badly the lights could no longer be used.
“The house had no guttering, leaks in the roof, pockets under the house that use to fill up with water like a pool, and there was no insulation in the house so we had to organise that [when we moved in two years ago].”
Earlier this year, she raised her concerns with the landlords, who lived in Germany.
“They basically gave me six weeks’ notice if I couldn’t fix it myself.”
Ms van der Raaij is adamant she is “one of the lucky ones”, with an old neighbour generously offering up her house bus and some land for the family to live on.
“Not everyone can go out and buy a house — it’s virtually impossible these days — and it worries me every day that there are more and more people becoming homeless.
“I just want people to know that they’re not alone going through this.”
Ms van der Raaij said she applied for about 10 suitable rental properties advertised on Trade Me, Real Estate NZ, and Facebook.
To improve her chances, she gave away her chickens, two pet sheep, and re-homed her son’s dog.
Along with two remaining dogs and three cats, Ms van der Raaij has three of her children (aged 8, 15, and 22) and an 18-year-old boarder living with her.
They are relying on a camping toilet, there is no shower, but there is a sink in which they can wash and rinse their dishes, and connect up a washing machine.
Drinking water is collected from a river and boiled.
Ms van der Raaij lives off her weekly 40-hour wage, which is topped up by a working for families allowance.
And while full-time camping is a novelty for now, she and the kids are not looking forward to winter.
Mr Archer said the only point of solace was that fact that many out-of-town buyers saw Masterton as a good investment opportunity.
But as property prices went up, so did the rent.