A jump in rental prices and a fall in available properties is causing an affordable accommodation shortage that has reached crisis levels, say community advocates.
The cost of the average rental in the Nelson region has jumped 15 per cent in the last two years while listings have fallen almost 20 per cent, according to figures provided by Trade Me.
“It’s critical,” says Voice Nelson’s Mary Ellen O’Connor. “It’s absolutely critical.”
The Trade Me figures show that in June 2015 the average price for a rental property in the region was $350. However, over the last two years that has risen sharply – hitting $395 in Nelson and $410 in Tasman.
In the same time, the number of rentals in the region has dropped even more dramatically – causing a shortage of affordable homes.
“It’s very bad – the lack of affordable housing is awful,” Mary Ellen says.
She has heard from families who each week must decide whether they purchase food or pay the power bill.
A survey her organisation, Voice Nelson, undertook in 2015 found that more than 50 per cent of respondents paid more than 50 per cent of household income in rent.
“Mould, damp and condensation were endemic.”
She says some families would spend nothing on heating and wrap themselves in sleeping bags to keep warm.
“And it’s only gotten worse.”
Bayleys Nelson rental divisional manager Tonia Allan says that unlike previous years there has not been any quiet period in the rental market.
She says it’s a concern about the number of good quality lower cost housing in the region.
“It’s always a concern that, especially for kids, you want a stable roof over their heads in a house that is clean tidy and warm.”
Tonia says there are plenty of houses that don’t fit that bill, but her company is not interested in them.
She says she supports a warrant of fitness on homes, but believes the Residential Tenancy Act needs to put more onus on tenants to be responsible for their rentals.
Carrie Mozena of the Nelson Tasman Housing Trust says over the last 30 years the rate of rental price increase has far outstripped incomes.
“So people who have low paid work or shift work or part-time work don’t have a hope.”
She says Nelson has also suffered a dearth of affordable housing building.
Apart from the trust’s 44 properties there have been none in the last 20 years.
“People who approach us are spending 50 to 70 per cent of their weekly income on rent. That is diabolical.”