Investors are back in the Tauranga rental market due to low interest rates, property experts say.
But a social agency has expressed concern about rent costs in the city, saying clients are taking in boarders, getting second jobs and going without food to keep a roof over their heads.
Dan Lusby, from Tauranga Rentals, said demand for rentals was outstripping supply with increased applications for good houses.
"We have been renting some top-end properties for $800-plus a week so the demand is there from people."
A lack of one and two-bedroomed homes was also having an impact and those rents had also jumped.
Rent for an average one-bedroomed house could start at $350 and a two-bedroomed may fetch up to $500 a week.
"I know the owners feel sorry for people in that situation who can't afford it ... but, unfortunately, that is how it is."
On average, by Lusby's estimations, rents had climbed by about 7 per cent year on year in Tauranga.
That was despite the Government-ordered rental freeze from March 23 to September 25 for existing tenants. Lusby said an average rent of $529 could jump to $570 when the freeze lifted.
Tauranga Harcourts managing director Nigel Martin said the rental market was steady and "to be honest, it doesn't seem any different to what it was pre-Covid".
Properties were renting reasonably quickly and its average median rent was $500 a week.
"There is still a steady supply and demand of tenants looking and the number of properties available is similar to prior to Covid. So it's all looking reasonably positive from our point of view and a business perspective."
A lot more investors were also looking to buy rental properties because of historically low
interest rates, he said.
"There seems to be a good demand for investors to buy the rental properties knowing that the tenants are there and the rents haven't dropped."
Aucklanders were still moving to Tauranga alongside ex-pats returning home, Martin said.
He acknowledged there was a housing shortage and said: "If we had more properties available to rent then that would allow more resources for those who are missing out".
Salvation Army Tauranga Community Ministries manager Davina Plummer said people were taking in boarders or second jobs just to meet the rent.
Many also had to choose which bills not to pay.
"As food is often the only thing that can change, many are struggling to put food on the table after all their other costs are paid."
She said children were feeling the stress.
"Families are having to deal with going into emergency housing, and the uncertainty that brings."
Plummer said the rental market remained "extremely tight" and many of its clients did not have a permanent home.
"We know this situation is not going to improve, and will get worse as wage subsidies end and there are more people without jobs or with reduced incomes."
Tauranga Budget Advisory Service manager Shirley McCombe agreed and said rent was always a struggle and usually a family's largest expense.
Accommodation supplements were available from the Ministry of Social Development alongside interest-free loans of up to $15,000 for rent arrears.
"There has always been a shortage of one or two-bedroom, reasonably priced homes available in Tauranga and this is an issue for our older community and for those whose lives are impacted by a disability."
She asked clients to reach out before they reached a crisis point.
"Financial wellbeing is a continuum and just like physical and mental wellbeing, sometimes we are at one end and sometimes at the other. There is no shame in that."
Meanwhile, the latest figures from Trade Me show the median weekly rent in Tauranga in May was $540 compared to $520 a year ago, while listings were down 23 per cent over the same timeframe.
Property spokesman Aaron Clancy said the fluctuations "are likely a result of the rental market trying to find its feet in the new world, post-lockdown".
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Catherine Smith, from OneRoof, said around the country, investors were heading back into the market to build up their portfolios, competing with first-home buyers for lower-priced properties.
"This means prices have not dropped so, on paper, gross rental yields have softened in some parts of the country. However, would-be investors will be aware that gross yields are only part of the picture, as the costs of being a landlord include repairs, maintenance, insurance and rates, taxes and other professional costs."
She said there has not been a flood of distressed sales, so investors hoping for bargain-basement buys have been disappointed.
"We expect that as short-term rentals such as properties that were Airbnb or part of hotel rental pools become long-term rentals, there will be more supply, which should moderate rental increases. But even with shifts in population and employment levels, as workers switch industries and towns to find work, we expect demand for rental property will hold up."
A spokesman from the Ministry of Social Development said it could help with rent arrears, even if you were not on a benefit, but the money needed to be paid back and criteria applied.
The ministry could also offer "tenancy costs cover", which meant it would help pay costs with a tenancy that ended within one year that a bond would not cover.
This could include up to four weeks of rent to help with costs like rent arrears or property damage and needed to be paid back.