Fears of housing crisis in Palmerston North

By Alecia Bailey of the Manawatu Guardian

The city's transient population, high rents, low wages and a lack of low-cost accommodation have led to higher levels of housing insecurity. Photo / Thinkstock
The city's transient population, high rents, low wages and a lack of low-cost accommodation have led to higher levels of housing insecurity. Photo / Thinkstock

Palmerston North could be on the cusp of a housing crisis, according to a Massey University study, which found rental prices within the city had risen 21 per cent in six years. Students Nadia Jones, Remy Waldteufel-Irvine, Daniel Ryland and Joanne Hall spent 10 weeks examining local housing issues.

According to their results, the city's transient population, high rents, low wages and a lack of low-cost accommodation have led to higher levels of housing insecurity than in other areas.

Ms Jones says this insecurity is often invisible when compared to homelessness despite affecting more people.

Those most at risk were found to be the elderly, recently released prisoners, single males, low-income solo parents and those accessing mental health services. Women suffering domestic abuse were also among those worse off.

Sue Swinborne, from the Manawatu Housing Advice Centre, says staff often see people coming in off the streets who have nowhere to go.

"There are a number of people who couch-hop or have nowhere to call home," she said.

"I believe this is because of a lack of affordable one and two-bedroom homes in the city."

As a "free market", the shortage of affordable housing means demand increases and experts believe this is the reason costs are rising. In the past year, the median national house price has risen to $389,000.

Mrs Swinborne says there are many community agencies working to help those facing housing insecurity, but gaining the appropriate resources and funding to do so can be difficult.

"I want a mechanism where all of these community agencies can work together - we can find housing but we also need to tend to the needs of the individual."

Manawatu Tenants Union co-ordinator Kevin Reilly believes the issue of housing has been forgotten.

"We are now in a time where the younger generation can't buy into the housing market and those homes that are available for low-income people are being torn down," he said.

- The Manawatu Guardian

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