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Rising rents bring calls for controls

JENNY LING AND LAUREN PRIESTLEY
Last updated 05:00 21/02/2014
Celeste Strewe and Julie Clark
Lauren Priestley
CAN'T COMPLAIN: Celeste Strewe and Julie Clark weigh up the benefits of living in Kingsland with paying high rents.

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Aucklanders are working longer hours to pay for skyrocketing rents, sparking calls for rent controls to be imposed by the government.

The Salvation Army state of the nation report says Auckland rents are rising about 10 per cent faster than incomes.

Rents have increased 17 per cent since 2009 in Auckland, but in the rest of country they increased just 11 per cent. The exception is Christchurch where rents increased by 20 to 30 per cent after the 2011 earthquakes.

Salvation Army social policy analyst Alan Johnson says that nationally it is a good picture, but "in Auckland it's not so good, particularly in central Auckland".

"It's population growth which is still happening in Auckland and the fact we're just not building enough housing across the region.

"A great deal more needs to be done to start closing that availability deficit.

"It's the supply problem and it needs to be addressed more directly by government."

A search on RealEstate.co.nz found two-bedroom homes priced between $350 to $650 a week in Mission Bay, $400 to $430 in Onehunga, between $495 and $530 in Ponsonby and a whopping $700 a week in Orakei.

Tamaki Housing Group member Sue Henry says landlords are now charging up to $700 a week for a three-bedroom house in Glen Innes.

Rising rental prices are a "big issue" affecting many Aucklanders, she says.

"I know one family who moved into a home, the electrics weren't working and there was sewage spilling out of the drains but they were still charged $320 per week.

"It got put up to $445 and then $550.

"The tenants couldn't pay it then and got evicted.

"People are too frightened to speak out because they think they'll be evicted."

Julie Clark and Celeste Strewe's four-bedroom house in Kingsland costs $700 a week to rent.

"It's definitely pricier here than in Wellington," Ms Clark says.

"I do think it's expensive but at the same time considering my friends are paying a similar price in Christchurch I can't complain."

Ms Strewe says the location is worth it but "everything is going up except the wages".

Grey Lynn-based Tenants Protection Association co-ordinator Angela Maynard says the government should bring in rent controls.

"That would stop them going up all the time.

"If they continue more people will be looking for accommodation supplements to help pay the rent."

Paying people a living wage would also help, Ms Maynard says.

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"A lot of people are finding it very difficult.

"If you did both of these things we'd get a much better rental climate. It would be stable."

Auckland mayor Len Brown proposed a living wage of $18.40 an hour for the lowest-paid council workers last year.

The minimum wage for adults is now $13.75 an hour.

But in December a majority of councillors voted 11-10 to block the move from being incorporated into the draft 2014-2015 annual budget. The costs and wider implications of the living wage policy are being investigated.

UPWARD TREND

The Striking a Better Balance report compared the hours of work required to pay rent for a two-bedroom house with an average rent.

Nationally it has remained about 17 hours for the last five years.

But in Auckland, the figure jumped from around 22.1 hours of wages in 2008 to nearly 25 hours hours in 2013. 

- Auckland City Harbour News

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