A constant demand for rentals is pushing some to the limits. Photo: File.

Rental squeeze forces people into cars

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The rental squeeze continues to hit Nelson hard as the pressure of the housing market makes an increasing number of people homeless, with some even resorting to hiring vehicles to live in.

The problem is being highlighted once again by social agencies as Nelson City Council and central government continue to fight homelessness in the region.

Philip Chapman from The Male Room says it not unusual to find people living in vehicles because they have nowhere else to go.

“There is lots of it going on, in cars and tents. I knew of a guy living in his car with three dogs, and it’s women and couples, too. We had one guy parked out the back here living out of his van.”

Some people are even renting cars to live in, instead of a house.

“A man who came through here said, for him, it was cheaper for him to rent a car from a car hire company on a long-term contract. He just slept on a mattress in the back and stopped at the airport every morning for a shower. He had it all mapped out,” says Philip.

Property management general manager at Summit Real Estate, Stewart Henry, says they are seeing a constant demand for rental properties.

“We are getting around 10 – 15 people viewing each rental and around five will apply. But, one third won’t be accepted after credit checks.”

He says private listings are becoming harder to find.

“More landlords are listing their rentals through agencies. It’s becoming more complicated because of all the law changes, so they say, ‘can you just deal with it for us, please?’”

He says a busy winter period last year has also put pressure on the rental market.

“There was no drop-off last winter like usual and before Christmas was very busy.”

Director of the Nelson Tasman Housing Trust, Carrie Mozena, says they are fielding at least six enquires a week from people living in cars, vans or caravans.

“We have 43 houses but a very low turn-over. We only have around three or four vacancies a year,” she says.

“In the past two months we’ve had more calls from people who are in the workforce but have to leave their rental due to a fixedterm tenancy ending, or due to their house being put on the market.”

She says bad credit is not necessarily a barrier for them housing someone.

“There are a lot of people who are forced into that situation and we look at what people are doing to address it. We understand that it can be easy to get into financial trouble and try to look beyond the surface.”

As of September 2019, there were 178 on the waiting list for public housing in the region, compared to 123 the previous year.

To combat homelessness, The Male Room has teamed up with other local agencies, including Te Piki Oranga and Gateway Housing Trust, under the leadership of The Salvation Army, to introduce a new initiative called Housing First Nelson Tasman.

The Government-funded programme aims to house and support homeless people with multiple, high and complex needs and is an expansion of a nationwide programme administered by The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.

Salvation Army envoy and Director Community Ministries, Ros Vercoe, says a team leader has been hired and is due to start in February.

“Once they have a housing procurement tenancy manager in place, they will start the process of acquiring properties for people to live in. That’s when we can start receiving referrals.”

Chair of council’s community services committee Matt Lawrey says he wants to prioritise homelessness in Nelson this term.

“It’s vital that the work we can get involved with through central government helps all people with housing problems in our region,” he says.

“There’s people sleeping rough in our city centre, but there’s also women with children who don’t know if they’ll have a roof over their heads from one day to the next.”

Has the rental squeeze put you or your family in a desperate situation? Email [email protected] nelsonweekly.co.nz or call/message 027 502 4637.