A large company which operates all across the North Island is looking at buying rentals in Tauranga to attract and retain staff as the chronic housing shortage worsens.
The company's boss told NZME he never imagined becoming a potential landlord of staff or "wearing so many hats" as an employer.
The city's economic agency says Tauranga's housing crisis is ''the single biggest threat" to the area's economy, and it is concerned for the ''working poor, who are facing an increasingly tough situation''.
And, a rental agency says it is fielding inquiries from people overseas almost every day and has rented some properties to businesses employing migrant workers.
McLeod Transport and Hiabs managing director Scott McLeod said the company had been considering buying rentals in Tauranga for the past six months.
''We think we might potentially need to own rentals to facilitate staff to move into the area, and it's something we haven't had to think about before. Whichever way you look at it, at the moment you are expected, as an employer, to fill a lot of roles.''
''There are a lot of hats we are having to wear.''
McLeod said the company's board was investigating the idea of buying property, which could also include a commercial building.
McLeod Transport and Hiabs had 10 to 15 jobs available. In the past, he said, the company had also gone guarantor for long-term employees in Tauranga whose rentals had been sold.
He said the whole scenario was upsetting, particularly for staff who had to move out of those homes.
Priority One chief executive Nigel Tutt said Tauranga's housing crisis directly affected nearly all businesses, and in his view, ''It is the single largest threat to our economy''.
''Our big concern is for the less well-off – the working poor, who have an increasingly tough situation. It is definitely a factor in staff attraction and retention.''
Tutt said he was not aware of any employers who had bought houses for staff to rent, but said ''many are talking about it''.
''While Tauranga remains an attractive place to move to, housing is certainly a barrier for some people and businesses that comes up in most discussions. SmartGrowth and the councils have lots of initiatives and are working very hard to fix it quickly.''
''But we need the Government to fast-track development areas, and provide roading infrastructure that supports housing [for example, Tauriko], and the city needs more investment in infill housing.''
Tauranga Rentals principal officer Dan Lusby said almost every day it was fielding inquiries from people overseas who planned on returning home or moving in the New Year.
''They want to get in there now and want to know if we have something suitable, but always in this situation, we don't have time to let them know because it's too early. We tell them to keep an eye on Trade Me and our website.''
Lusby said it also had organisations on its books that brought in Filipino and Fijian workers and people from other island nations.
''A lot of the time, we will ring them and say we have a property available. That has been good so far, because we took the risk initially to house their workers and it has worked out fine.
''So, we are more than happy to recommend them to our owners going forward.''
Auckland Winstone Wallboard staff who are to relocate to Tauranga when its new state-of-the-art factory opens next year were also looking for somewhere to live.
''The rental market is still tight.''
Tauranga's population is continuing to climb as many other cities - including nearby Rotorua - are experiencing population loss, new data reveals.
Provisional population figures released last week by Statistics NZ showed Tauranga had the highest population growth recorded among all the urban centres in New Zealand.
Tauranga Urban Task Force chairman Scott Adams said some of its members owned multiple properties whose commercial, retail and industrial tenants had difficulty recruiting and retaining staff outside of the region because of the inability to house them locally.
''This is not a new problem for our sub-region - developers predicted high rents from a lack of land and housing supply 10 years ago. We are now suffering what was predicted a decade ago through our city's inability to create growth.''
He said it had warned the councils that if land supply was not created, it would lead to all manner of economic and social problems for our local economy.
Adams said there was no silver bullet and no quick fix, and addressing the issue would involve decisive governance at a local and central level.
Tauranga Business Chamber chief executive Matt Cowley said in a recent column for the Bay of Plenty Times that he was constantly hearing stories of businesses who finally found a suitable candidate, only for that candidate to be unable to find a place to live.
''So, they lose them to another region where housing is more readily available and affordable. This need for housing is just as important for Te Puke and Ōmokoroa as it is in Tauranga.''
1st Call Recruitment managing director Phill van Syp said the city was extremely short on housing: ''We've definitely outgrown ourselves.''
In the past, the company had hired out part of a backpackers for people coming into the country for work, and it wasn't something new.
''It is really hard to secure a house when you are not even in the country. The problem is everywhere, not just in Tauranga.''
Ryan and Alexander Recruitment Agency consultant Lynda Stewart said overall, employers were still happy to consider candidates from outside of the area.
''However, they will be cautious enough to ask potential candidates what their plans are for accommodation if/when they relocate and ensure they have a plan in place.''
She said the job market was tight, and while she had not heard of employers going guarantor on rentals, it ''could be worth employers considering as an additional drawcard to secure the right person''.
''If there isn't enough housing, how are we going to sustain growth, or in fact retain staff, if they're needing to move within the region and can't find further accommodation?''
However, Stewart said it was still recruiting plenty of candidates from around New Zealand, and talking to many overseas candidates seeking to move to the Bay of Plenty.
Statistics NZ provisional population figures show Tauranga's estimated population was 158,300 as of June this year.
Commenting on the release of the population figures last week, City Council commissioner Stephen Selwood said they confirmed the city was "continuing to grow quickly", which reinforced the importance of steps the council was taking to manage growth.
He said this included investing in infrastructure, community facilities and the city centre development needed to cater for the current state of affairs as well as for future growth, alongside working with partners to ensure that "new housing opportunities come on-stream".
"Our climate, environment and vibrant job market obviously make Tauranga a popular choice, but we have some significant challenges ahead of us to accommodate the people who want to come here, while ensuring that the lifestyle our current residents love is not compromised and that we celebrate our heritage and protect our natural environment."
He also said current projections indicated Tauranga's population was likely to top 200,000 people by 2048, meaning around 28,000 extra homes were needed for people to live in.
Rental figures from Trade Me show the median rent in Tauranga has jumped from $595 in September last year to $630 this year. The Real Estate Institute of NZ's September report shows the median house price in Tauranga fell from $965,000 to $955,000.