Housing crisis: ‘We are living in a truck’


Queenstown renters have revealed the extent of the resort’s housing crisis - in their own words.

Their anonymous comments are included in the Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust 2016 renters’ survey, in which 92 per cent of renters said housing affordability was a barrier to their long-term commitment to the area.

The full results were published yesterday.

Problems highlighted include crammed houses, bad insulation, cut-throat landlords and fierce competition for accommodation.

“We are living in a truck,” one renter says. “We couldn’t find anywhere to rent that would let you have pets and that we could afford. Winter is coming and I have 3-year-old twin boys.”

Another says: “I am homeless at 65.”

One employer says their staff are living in cars.

Steeply rising prices combined with some jobs offering little more than minimum wage left many worrying about the long-term future of the town.

Between 2012 and this year, average house prices in the Queenstown Lakes rose more than a third, from $596,883 to $802,634.

“Queenstown pricing is ridiculous,” says one renter. “A two-bedroom house unfurnished is not $550 in other areas of New Zealand.”

Another says: “Queenstown rental prices are out of control. I pay $610 a week for an uninsulated, single-glazed, wooden house which is FREEZING in winter.”

One respondent says rent has increased by $160 a week in less than a year, adding: “We now pay $700 a week for a freezing cold house.”

Increasingly, rooms are being rented for visitor accommodation, leaving people to take what accommodation they could find. Some are said to be paying $210 a week, plus bills, to sleep in a garage.

Suggested solutions included a cap on rentals or “swift and radical moves” by Queenstown’s council – considering the price of some properties have increased 300%.

Businesses need to get more involved if they want to retain workers, one surveyed person says.

One business’s human resource manager says: “I am nervous about offering employment to anyone who hasn’t already secured accommodation in Queenstown.”

Several people say they are moving from the resort.

“Can’t afford it anymore,” says a person who lived in the town for 15 years.

A 76-year-old says they’ve given up their home to the local council.

“I could not afford to buy another property in Queenstown.”

Another person says they are considering leaving because it is too expensive and because of “untrustworthy housemates up-charging rents [and] instability in lease lengths”.

A common theme is the inability to save for a house when the bulk of their income goes on rent and housing-related bills.

One couple says they are saving $300 a week for a house. But a $120,000 deposit “for something decent” will take six years to achieve - and prices keep rising.

A single parent earning $790 a week pays $400 in rent. After bills and petrol that leaves $150 for food.

“I can’t even save money.”

There are 12 people living in a four-bedroom house, one respondent says.

Room for rent listings can get more than 150 enquiries.

The online survey attracted 1147 responses, 79 per cent from Queenstown and 21 per cent in Wanaka. Almost half of those surveyed were between 26 and 35 years old - with 60 per cent renting in downtown Queenstown, Frankton and Fernhill.

A third had rented in the district for five years or more, while 28 per cent arrived within the previous 12 onths. Yet, 81 per cent of renters say they intend to stay in the area for more than two years.

Almost 50 per cent of those surveyed are New Zealand citizens, with 20 per cent having permanent residency and a further 20 per cent on one- or two-year work visas.