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Fight for rentals in Tauranga escalates as median rent rises $60

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Sonia Howes is facing homelessness because she can't find a rental. The terminally ill mum of three said landlords don't seem to want tenants with children. Photo/Andrew Warner 230916aw15bop.JPG
Sonia Howes is facing homelessness because she can't find a rental. The terminally ill mum of three said landlords don't seem to want tenants with children. Photo/Andrew Warner 230916aw15bop.JPG

Tauranga's median rent has risen $60 a week over the last year and the number of properties available at one agency has plummeted by more than 100 in two months, new figures show.

The city's median weekly rent has increased from $390 in August 2015 to $450 in August 2016 - a rise of $3120 in a year, latest Trade Me figures show.

Dan Lusby, owner of Tauranga Rentals, said two months ago, there were about 330 rental properties listed on Trade Me, compared to under 220 on Thursday.

"That's quite a drop. In August, we rented 385 properties. That means there's less than a month's worth of properties available," he told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend.

Mr Lusby said the average cost of a three-bedroom home in Tauranga was $431 per week, compared to $408 in February.

"Rents are going to keep rising because supply is going down again. I'm at a property now [Thursday] with six applicants waiting to get into the door. It only became available on Wednesday. And those are the six best applicants we selected of about 20."

On Wednesday and Thursday, Mr Lusby added five new houses to his books. By Thursday afternoon, two were let.

Trade Me spokesman Nigel Jefferies said the price rise was due to the continued popularity of the Bay of Plenty as a place to live, whether to rent or own.

''We think that less of the housing stock is going to investors as compared to Auckland for example which results in less rental stock - more people are buying in Tauranga to live there. This combined with an increase in tenants coming to the area looking has seen prices move up.''

Ministry of Social Development associate deputy chief executive of social housing Kay Read said 9904 people in Tauranga were receiving an accommodation supplement as of June 2016. This was down from 10,538 in June 2015. The supplement is a weekly payment which helped people with their rent, board or the cost of owning a home.

The amount someone receives in accommodation supplement will depend on their accommodation costs, their income, assets, family makeup and where they live. In Tauranga, the maximum rate payable was $165 per week.

Ms Read said anyone who needed help with housing should talk to Work and Income because there were a range of ways it could help such as helping with rent arrears, assisting with bond, rent-in-advance and the accommodation supplement, or by assessing their eligibility for social housing.

Citizens Advice Bureau Tauranga manager Kim Saunders said in the last financial year, the bureau had received 578 enquiries about rental housing. In July and August this year, the bureau had received 95 enquiries. Article continues below

Sonia Howes is facing homelessness because she can't find a rental. The terminally ill mum of three said landlords don't seem to want tenants with children. Photo/Andrew Warner
Sonia Howes is facing homelessness because she can't find a rental. The terminally ill mum of three said landlords don't seem to want tenants with children. Photo/Andrew Warner

Dying mum can't find a home for her family

A dying Tauranga mother-of-three says she faces homelessness because she can't find a rental for her family.

Sonia Howes said she had applied for 20 houses in the last month with no luck.

Ms Howes has about 18 months to live. In June last year, she was diagnosed with lung cancer - small cell adenocarcinoma of the left lung. Her story about how she had turned to vitamin C therapy featured in the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend earlier this month.

The 39-year-old, whose children are aged 5, 7 and 8, said she believed it was because landlords did not want children in their houses.

''Landlords look at children as animals," she said.

"A lot of ads I've been reading say 'no children'. You are not allowed animals, and children aren't allowed either."

She also felt she was being overlooked because she was on a benefit.

''They want a working mum and dad family," she said.

''I don't think it's fair but that's how I feel. I notice the mum and dads who turn up [to rental viewing]."

On Monday, Ms Howes went to a rental viewing in Papamoa. She said the agent was showing three different groups of a dozen or so people around that day alone.

''It's very stressful. I've been renting since I was 16. Back in the day we used to find a rental in the paper and go and look at it. You would be the only one looking at it and they would offer it to you and you'd say 'yes' or 'no'."

Ms Howes said she would like to move to Rotorua or Tokoroa where it was cheaper.

She and her children used to live in a garage at the rear of a family member's house because she couldn't find anywhere else.

She had since moved into a rental but said she was looking for another after a disagreement with her landlord, who she said had given her notice to move out.

''My kids are a little stressed as well. The first thing they said was 'are we going to live in a garage again?'

''We tried. We hung up sheets and got pictures from the op shop to hang up, make it look nice, for the kids.

''I think I'm not scared this time. I've done it before.''

- additional reporting Kiri Gillespie

- Bay of Plenty Times

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