Rental housing crisis impedes Christchurch recovery

By Teuila Fuatai

Real estate agents are reporting a severe lack of rental properties in Christchurch - needed by families who are having their earthquake damaged homes fixed.  Photo / Simon Baker
Real estate agents are reporting a severe lack of rental properties in Christchurch - needed by families who are having their earthquake damaged homes fixed. Photo / Simon Baker

A major shortage of rental houses in earthquake-ravaged Christchurch is severely affecting the city's road to recovery.

The Real Estate Institute NZ surveyed 11,500 rental properties in the city and found there were almost no rental properties available.

Tony McPherson, the Christchurch-based Director of REINZ said at least two-thirds of those surveyed required temporary accommodation whilst their homes were being repaired. But, due to the shortage they had nowhere to stay.

"For repairs to be done and to be cost effective, people need to move out of their homes. It is difficult as this period can be anywhere between 3 days and 4 weeks typically" said McPherson.

The survey also found that 41 per cent of tenants are finding it impossible to relocate due to the lack of alternative accommodation, with 35 per cent of tenants having to remain in homes whilst repairs are carried out.

A further 44 per cent of tenants said they were finding it extremely difficult to relocate because of the rental shortage, and 6 per cent of tenants were found to have been vacated from homes without the provision of alternative accommodation.

McPherson said he understood that the temporary accommodation made available by the government was fully occupied. He believed a coordinated response from the various organisations and agents involved with Christchurch's property market was key to dealing with the housing shortage.

"REINZ has already met with a broad group of property managers to open lines of communications. Next week, we are having a meeting with the Department of Building and Housing."

McPherson said that a greater allocation of short term rental accommodation by the Earthquake Commission or the Department of Building and Housing would assist.

He also said that the stock of rental accommodation has shrunk in the last 18 months as houses have been red-zoned re-occupied by owners or sold.

"The market has undergone a dramatic change since last February. At one point in the middle of last year, there were actually more rental properties available than pre-earthquake. Now, we are facing a completely different situation."

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