It makes for sobering reading.

The Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust’s 2024 Renters’ Survey, the fifth of its kind, shows one in four respondents have been impacted by houselessness over the past year, and 75% don’t earn enough to cover the median weekly rent at acceptable housing-to-income levels.

The situation’s now causing a ripple effect of ‘‘houselessness anxiety’’ across the Queenstown-Lakes, affecting general wellbeing.

The first Renters’ Survey since 2020, a total of 1132 responses were collected this year from respondents in the Whakatipu and Upper Clutha, with a total useable sample of 950 – up from 525 in 2020.

Of those, 9% say they’re houseless, but once their partners and kids are factored in, it in creases to 14%.

‘‘Worryingly,’’ the report says, ‘‘20% of those who are houseless have children.’’

About 77.3% of those who identified as houseless are either New Zealand citizens or residents.

‘‘When we factor in all of those who have been houseless within the past 12 months, as well as those who are currently houseless, the impact is one in every four renters,’’ the report says.

● One in four renters surveyed are, or have been, houseless in the past year
● 20% of houseless have kids
● 76% say housing affordability’s a barrier to long-term commitment to district
● 60% of renters will have to move in the next 12 months
● Median Queenstown-Lakes rent between $501 and $600 per week
● 75% earn less than $75,000 gross, insufficient to cover median weekly rent at acceptable housing-to-income limits

‘High levels of chronic and situational stress’

One woman surveyed says she’s ‘‘incredibly stressed’’ about her situation.

‘‘I am supposed to keep my children safe and at this point I can’t even provide them housing, which is a basic need’’.

Reasons given for houselessness include the rental property being sold, converted to short-term visitor accommodation, or the landlord moving back in.

The survey states houselessness still represents a ‘‘legal, ethical and moral dilemma for local organisations’’, while for the individuals and families represented by the stats, ‘‘the daily struggle is very real’’.

It finds lack of sleep’s a common problem, while diet’s also an issue due to a lack of food storage and cooking facilities.

‘‘Narrative assessment showed high levels of chronic and situational stress, aligning with ‘poor/extremely poor’ quality of life scores,’’ the report says.

Of those experiencing houselessness, 23% report being discriminated against when trying to obtain suitable housing.

Another respondent, who lives in a car with their family, says depression, stress, anxiety and panic attacks are part of their daily lives, and questions how a family is supposed to afford the asking prices for a three-bedroom rental property in the district.

Q’town’s ‘not an easy place to call home’

The ‘‘very real struggle’’ and ongoing stress for those who are houseless is having a ‘‘ripple effect’’ on the wellbeing of renters in general.

The ‘houselessness anxiety’ phenomenon is where even those with rental properties are concerned about their future, given lease renewals, rent increases and competition for available and affordable properties, which could leave them on the streets.

Affordability continues to be a major contributing factor.

‘‘The Queenstown Lakes district is a stunning place to live, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy place to call home,’’ the report, prepared by Katherine Davies, states.

‘‘In a country where housing solutions are spiralling out of control almost everywhere, our district holds the dubious honour of being the hardest place to secure affordable housing.’’

According to the report, the median weekly rent in the district’s between $501 and $600 — Infometrics suggests that’s $599, while Trade Me’s Rental Price Index from last September suggested median rent for Otago was $585.

However, 21% of Queenstown renters pay over $800 a week, compared to 12% in Wānaka.

Based on a general rule household costs should be no more than 28% of annual household income, renters need to earn more than $111,000 a year to afford the median rent, the survey finds.

Three-quarters of respondents earn under $75,000 per annum (gross), which isn’t enough to cover the median weekly rent at acceptable housing-to-income limits.

One renter says they carry a heavy mental load, which affects every aspect of their life.

‘‘But it’s not just my burden to carry, as my children also miss out.

‘‘I can only skip so many meals before they start to notice.’’

Another says they spend more than half their weekly income on rent, and asks people to ‘‘imagine how hard our life is’’.

And another says they and their partner are both qualified professionals who contribute to the community.

‘‘It feels demeaning and discouraging that we aren’t able to afford, or even find, more suitable accommodation.’’

Survey results ‘a concern for all’

‘Overwhelming response’: Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust boss Julie Scott

Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust boss Julie Scott says results from the 2024 Renters’ Survey should be concerning for everyone.

The survey found 76% of respondents considered housing affordability’s a barrier to their long-term commitment to the district, up from 59% in 2020, and 79% considered availability of properties is also a barrier.

‘‘The flow-on effect from this for the community as a whole means increased staff turnover and lack of ability for employers to attract and retain workers,’’ Scott says.

‘‘This ultimately results in a cost to the local economy, both small and larger businesses.’’

Scott says the survey also demonstrates the ‘‘huge challenge’’ facing renters who are trying to keep their heads above water in the face of unaffordable rentals.

‘‘The qualitative data we received validates this with numerous comments around constantly chasing money, feeling anxiety around rent increases, inability to make long-term plans [because they’re] caught in short-term financial cycles, and lack of housing security.

‘‘We had an overwhelming response from survey participants when asked to elaborate on their situation and provide further commentary.

‘‘This speaks volumes of the serious issues renters in our district are facing,’’ Scott says.

The results of the Renters’ Survey are used to support funding applications to central and local government, and inform work being done to help improve housing for renters across the district.

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