Levana Noema Grout and her daughter Lequaila Grout Raroa have been living in a motel since July because they can’t find a rental property. Photo: Kate Russell.

Demand soars for rentals

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Levana Noema Grout and her one-year-old daughter long for a place to call home.

The 19-year-old single mum has been living in a Nelson motel room since July, as she navigates an ever-tightening Nelson rental market.

“I’ve probably applied for 60 to 70 places, and I look five times a day, every day.”

She says she’s doing everything she can to impress landlords but feels her “young mum status” along with her lack of rental history puts her at the bottom of the list.

“I’ve written a letter about myself and my situation. I present myself really well and talk to the owners or agents, but I still don’t get anywhere.”

Levana says it’s hard to call a motel room “home”.

“I can’t really call it a home. It doesn’t have an oven. People are constantly watching me and there’s not much privacy.”

Levana moved to Nelson from Porirua two years ago and wants to stay here to pursue a career in animal care, which she is gaining from the Nelson Young Parents School.

She is looking at all areas of Nelson and Richmond and is open to any number of bedrooms.

“I’m not fussy, I just need a home.”

Levana says she is exploring all options and is also on the Ministry of Social Development’s housing register waitlist – however the number of Nelson applicants in the past 12 months has increased by 49 per cent.

“It’s quite disappointing, as a mother. There’s just not enough housing.”

The Nelson Tasman Housing Trust is one organisation which is working hard to turn the situation around, with director Carrie Mozena saying the situation is “absolutely” the worst it’s ever been.

The trust provides affordable and public housing for people in need.

They have 44 houses and have recently purchased land to build another six two-bedroom homes.

However, Carrie says the level of need outpaces the rate at which they’re able to build.

“I have enormous empathy for the very high level of housing need out there. It’s reaching further and further into our community. Incomes are flat, there are not enough affordable rentals and not enough public housing has been built in the last 30 years.

“We want to improve the pace of development and we’re hopeful for further local and central government investment.”

Kāinga Ora also have a goal to build 152 more houses in Nelson and Richmond over the next four years.

“That will help, but the issue is, even with new building at full speed, it takes time to get houses on the ground.”

She also says people on low incomes are being “pushed” with a “sudden and significant” rise in market rents.

“During the Covid lockdown the government instituted a rent freeze, but the moment it was lifted, some landlords lifted the rents, not just $10 or $20 a week, but $60 or $70 a week.”

Meanwhile, Levana waits for some good fortune to come her way.

“Mentally, it wears me down,” she says. “It stresses me out, I have to keep on top of it and being declined so many times is just … what’s the point. There are so many like me and its quite disappointing.”