Bill English: Wellington rental squeeze 'problem of success', not a crisis
A Wellington rental squeeze causing dozens of people to compete for the same flat is "a problem of success" and not a sign of a crisis, Prime Minister Bill English says.
Forty potential tenants queued up for a flat viewing in inner-city Mt Cook on Wednesday morning, with the property manager likening the scene to "a street party".
The queue followed an estimate this week that Wellington is currently 3590 dwellings short of what it needs, with the head of the city's housing taskforce saying multiple tenants were sharing rooms as a result.
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Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford said the photo was a sign the housing crisis had reached Wellington.
Twyford said there were increasing reports of "extreme situations" in the city's housing market, with large crowds viewing flats, excessive letting fees and landlords "inviting tenants to bid against each other".
"It's a landlord's market at the moment. It's a seller's market and tenants in Wellington are up against it."
A shortfall of about 3500 properties was responsible for some of the pressure, while rents were also rising to follow house prices after an increase in property speculation.
"Investors want to see a return on their investment, so that tends to push rents up as well," Twyford said.
However, English said the demand for rentals was "a problem of success", which the Wellington City Council was already trying to address.
"It's actually a long time since Wellington has felt the pressures of growth – the Government's investing large amounts of money in the infrastructure…
"The council has shown that it understands for the first time in a number of decades, there is pressure on the housing stock and they are enabling more houses to be built because that's the only way that they're going to see a bit less pressurised."
Damage to Wellington office buildings from last November's Kaikoura earthquake had also had "a bit of a flow-on effect" to the city's accommodation, English said.
Although the large lines were "certainly concerning for people who are looking for accommodation", they did not show a crisis as the housing shortfall was well understood by the council.
Wellington hasn't experienced pressure in its market for quite some time and as long as they respond quickly, they'll be able to deal with it."