Lure of school zones drives up rent

By Ellen Irvine

Parents determined to get their children into certain Tauranga schools are moving house to get in the school zone, creating demand for homes and in some cases pushing up rent.

Twenty schools in the Tauranga area have enrolment schemes in place, meaning that only students living in a certain zone are guaranteed a place at the school.

And the Ministry of Education told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend it was looking at possible zoning for other Tauranga schools, but no decision had been made.

Real estate experts said properties in zones including Greenpark, Selwyn Ridge, Matua, Pillans Point, Omanu, Tahatai Coast, Selwyn Ridge, Tauranga Intermediate and Bethlehem were in hot demand.

Steve Warburton, owner of Prime Rentals, said there was big demand in Bethlehem due to the area's schools pushing up rent by about 5 per cent this year.

"We have renters who will move to get into a school zone," he said. "There is big demand in the $450-$600 a week price bracket, and some are often 20 year-old homes.

"Walking distance to schools is becoming important as families are concerned about security, they don't want their kids biking to school or walking big distances.

"That can often have an impact on prices."

Other popular school zones were Matua, Pillans Point and Greenpark.

"In areas with a higher home ownership rate, that probably pushes [rental] prices up quite a bit. People are prepared to pay to get within a handy distance to school."

In a school zone where plenty of rental properties were available, such as Selwyn Ridge, there was not as much pressure, he said.

Gary Prentice of Rentals BOP, said school zones were important to parents who rented homes: "Most people come to us with a preconceived idea as to which school they want to go to and they want to get into that area."

Houses in zones for Omanu, Mount Maunganui and Tahatai Coast schools were in particular demand, he said. It had not pushed up prices, but made it more difficult to find a suitable property.

LJ Hooker franchise owner Neville Falconer said a school zone could be the deciding factor if a buyer was considering two similar properties at a similar price.

Popular school zones were Selwyn Ridge, Tauranga Intermediate and Greenpark.

Ross Stanway, chief executive of Realty Services which operates Bayleys and Eves, said buyers commonly asked to view properties based on a school zone.

"There's no doubt it influences where people want to live."

But Mr Stanway said the desirability of schools was subjective, which prevented it becoming a major issue.

Renters also looked within school zones - especially when they were new to the area and planned to buy later in the same school zone.

Golden Sands Papamoa sales manager Mark Day said being in the school zone for Golden Sands School and Papamoa College was part of the appeal of the area to buyers.

"It's a factor in their thinking, along with price, number of bedrooms, style of house.

"There are less properties on the market now the school's been established.

"With new stock, it's helping sell a portion because people want to get in the school zone."

Mr Day said school zones helped drive the number of sales but not price.

"It doesn't increase the amount that people can afford."

Dan Lusby, of Tauranga Rentals, said school zones impacted on demand for rentals, particularly in the Pillans Point and Tauranga Primary zones. It had not pushed rents up because there was a sufficient supply of properties available, he said.

Greenpark School principal Graeme Lind said he knew of several parents who had moved house - either renting or buying - to get into the school zone.

"When out-of-zone parents come to enrol, they are told at that time they can go in a ballot if we do have spaces, or the other way they can be granted enrolment is by coming in zone either renting or purchasing."

The popularity of the school said something about the school's culture, he said.

Pillans Point School principal Matt Simeon said the school received a lot of inquiries about whether they cold take out-of-zone students, but roll numbers prevented that.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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