Christchurch rents leap $100 a week

Christchurch tenants are now paying an average of $400 a week in rent - $107, or 36 per cent, more than they did before the September 2010 earthquake.

Over the same period, the average weekly rent for the rest of the country has increased by $37 a week, or 11 per cent.

Latest figures from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment show that finding a rental for less than $300 a week is becoming increasingly difficult in Christchurch, with the number of properties in that price range down 57 per cent on pre-quake levels.

Dan Martin, from the ministry, told Christchurch City councillors yesterday that the number of bonds lodged in Christchurch had fallen to 15,900 in the year to May, the lowest since 1997.

Martin said that while before the quakes it was estimated that 3750 people in Christchurch were living in insecure housing, that number was now estimated at between 5510 and 7405.

Housing New Zealand was recording more applications from homeless people, and the Christchurch City Mission had seen a 19 per cent increase in demand for beds in its men's night shelter.

It had also had to set up a women's night shelter because of the high level of need in the community.

City council community, recreation and culture committee chairman Cr Yani Johanson said it was clear from the information provided by Martin that urgent action was needed to address the housing crisis in Christchurch.

"We just can't wait any longer," he said.


The council says it is now unlikely it will hit its target of getting 300 of its damaged social housing units fixed by the end of this year.

The 300 target was set by councillors this year after the council was criticised by Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee for its slow response to repairing its social housing.

Council staff yesterday told the council's community, recreation and culture committee that it now seemed unlikely that target would be achieved.

Councillors were told the failure was primarily because of the length of time it was taking to reach damage settlements with the Earthquake Commission (EQC).

"The process to reach a settlement on each complex is a very long process. We're talking many, many months,"  council facilities rebuild project manager Scott Bennett said.

The commission has rejected the claim.

An EQC spokesman yesterday said the commission "strenuously rejects" any suggestion it has caused delays in settling council social housing claims.

"EQC provided an interim lump-sum settlement of $23 million in May last year to enable the council to get on with repairs, despite incomplete information on its insurance cover," he said.

Councillors were told delays were partly because of the council dealing with the most complicated complexes first. Because of that, it was now likely that only 165 open unit repairs and 35 closed unit repairs would be completed by year's end.

At Johanson's urging, the committee yesterday voted to write to EQC chief executive Ian Simpson to ask him to make additional resources available within the commission so the council could accelerate its social housing repair programme.

Cr Glenn Livingstone said the council should be asking the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) for permission to continue using habitable social housing units in the red zone.

Johanson suggested the council raise the matter with Cera chief executive Roger Sutton at today's scheduled meeting.

"If there are places in the red zone where people can live, Cera has said it will make an exception on a case-by-case basis," Johanson said.

Livingstone said the council should also get information from Cera on the option and feasibility of relocating red-zoned homes to vacant council land as a means of providing temporary social housing.

Livingstone told The Press that he understood there were about 500 houses within the red zone that could be usable.

Information he had received suggested it would cost about $80,000 to buy and relocate each one.

"We have a [housing] crisis and we need to look at options," he said.

The Press