Would-be renters left out in cold


An acute rental shortage is helping investors but also creating hazardous living conditions, Queenstown property managers say.

The combination of ski season staff arriving in town and increasing numbers of construction workers is leaving dozens of would-be renters out in the cold.

Queenstown Accommodation Centre boss Allan Baillie says some property owners are putting two or three single beds in a room and renting each of them out.

“People are going for shared rooms which we didn’t have five years ago.

“Property managers aren’t doing it but there are private landlords out there with five-bedroom houses that they’re putting 15 people in.

“It just becomes a little dangerous.”

A TV One news item last week claimed up to 30 people at a time were living in a nine-bedroom Queenstown home known as ‘the castle of Fernhill’.

“Where’s the safety factor in that?” local Ray White rental agent Beth Chisholm says.

“There should be some control by the council over the number of occupants per property, but then people are desperate, they want a bed.”

Cramming also causes parking congestion in suburban streets, Chisholm says.

She believes there’s also a case for purpose-built ski worker accommodation close to central Queenstown, as those people usually don’t have vehicles.

Baillie says the shortage also means the resort should look at more infill housing in central Queenstown, as the council’s already proposed.

“Maybe [the council] has to look at relaxing some restrictions, changing the density to allow a little bit of development in certain areas to go three or four levels high.”

However Baillie says the flip-side of the rental shortage is that rents have been rising so that investors who own units, in particular, are getting a good return.

“Anything that’s close to town that’s a unit, no problem.”

Harcourts Rentals boss Keith Hibbs adds: “The investors are getting a better return than they were two or three years ago.

“I know the tenants have got to pay more but it’s a good turn-around for the investors.”

Hibbs says he doesn’t think the rental shortage will let up for the foreseeable future.

Housemart owner Hayley Stevenson says an average two-bedroom house is now $450 to $500 a week, $50 to $60 more than a year ago.

Landlords are getting more rent although property prices have also risen.

Stevenson says: “They do sort of go hand in hand.”

Ten years ago, before the Frankton Road apartment boom, Queenstown suffered a similar shortage of rental accommodation, during which people were sleeping in their cars.

Stevenson: “But going back four or five years ago, we had places that sat through winter.”

However she says ski season workers are often their worst enemy because they turn up in town so late.

“People just need to get more organised – it’s like anything, there’s no point turning up to Coronet Peak on opening day to see if you can get a job.

“Next year I can guarantee they’ll be turning up in March/April.”