A Queenstown woman and her young daughter are having to share a flat with revellers, kept awake by late-night drinking sessions and the sound of people having sex, due to the town’s rental crisis.
The rise of Airbnb and the soaring popularity of Queenstown as a tourist destination have stretched the resort’s rental housing stock to its absolute limits.
There are reports of up to 18 people living in a single house, with bunk beds becoming a common feature in rentals.
Some Queenstown residents are renting out campervans, caravans or other improvised forms of accommodation.
One Queenstown solo mother, who asked not to be identified because publicity could negatively impact her 7-year-old daughter, says they are paying $450 a week to share a small room in a house with four young itinerant workers.
The mother says: “It is very hard to find a house here, especially in my situation. I can’t rent a house by myself because it’s too expensive so I have to share with other people.
“I have a child and if they have a party, it’s so noisy. You can hear them having sex in the other room so you have to put the television on to block it out.”
The woman earns about $250 a week working as a waitress and gets Work and Income help to pay the rent.
She says the contract for the current flat expires in two months, and she doesn’t know whether they will have to move out or if the rent would go up.
She says she’s had to find a new flat every year for the past four years.
But she doesn’t want to leave Queenstown because her daughter goes to school there and has friends and support networks.
“It’s our home,” she says.
The woman and her daughter are among 420 households on the Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust’s waiting list for help.
She is also on the Housing New Zealand list, and has made numerous real estate agents aware of her situation.
Some property owners have been inundated with requests for people seeking accommodation.
A landlord spoken to by the NZ Herald says his 10 properties are full “99 per cent of the time” since Airbnb gained traction in the past one to two years.
Many property owners are opting for the more lucrative option of short-term rentals through the online accommodation service rather than getting long-term tenants.
Like many landlords in the area, he says most of his rooms are twin-share, some are three to a room, and he has two large rooms which sleep four.
One of his properties was once home to 18 people.
Beleaguered Clutha-Southland MP Todd Barclay says the situation in Queenstown is unique compared to anywhere else in New Zealand.
“We have a lot of transient workers requiring short-term accommodation while they are on working holidays, we have an increasing number of families moving into the area hoping to base themselves here permanently for work and other opportunities, we have an increase in traditional rental stock transferring over to Airbnb.”
These challenges come as a result of growth across all sectors in Queenstown.
“I am sympathetic towards people who find themselves without accommodation or in sub-standard conditions.”
The government and council are working to try to increase the housing stock, Barclay says.
The Special Housing Areas scheme is enabling more than 1000 new homes to be built – although no titles have been issued – while a lot of other construction is underway.
Barclay: “On the worker accommodation side, which in my view is the bigger problem, for the past 12 months I have been in close discussions with Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith about the possibility of expediting the sale of the Wakatipu High School Gorge Rd site, once they have moved to their new site in 2018, in order to fast-track a worker accommodation project.”
The MP gives credit to an increasing number of businesses, particularly a handful of larger employers, that are proactively trying to address the worker accommodation issue.