As the median weekly rent in Northland rises to $385, Erron Ward cries everyday thinking about having to find accommodation in less than a month for his large family that includes a cancer survivor.

The Whangarei father of six has tried everywhere, including Housing New Zealand, Ministry of Social Development, and real estate agents but faces a grim prospect of finding suitable housing.

He is among a growing list of Northlanders, including those who have moved into the region, struggling to find rental accommodation while rents keep going up.

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The latest Trade Me Property Index shows the median weekly rent in Northland in January
this year rose by 9.1 per cent — more than double the national average of 4.4 per cent — compared with the same month last year.

The median weekly rent in Northland in January last year was $353 and went up $32 in just one year, compared with the national average of $470. It's $550 a week in Wellington and Auckland, and $400 a week in Christchurch.

In Whangarei, the median weekly rent in January last year was $360 but shot up to $395 last month. Trade Me didn't have enough rentals in the Far North and Kaipara in January to give a definitive median rent.

Mr Ward's family has been living in a $490 per week villa in Otangarei for two years but gave notice to move out in three weeks because they were unhappy with its condition.

To compound their woes, his youngest son who is 14 months old is recovering after cancer treatment that lasted nine months.

Mr Ward broke down while explaining to the Northern Advocate his family's predicament in finding suitable accommodation. He has been on the Housing New Zealand list since July last year.

"We're looking and we're looking madly. There's nothing there for a family of eight and we need a five-bedroom house. We've been married for 22 years and the housing situation has never been this bad," he lamented.

Mr Ward recently got back to work as a crane operator after being on an emergency benefit while his son received treatment in Auckland.

"I cry everyday. I don't think the housing problem has been looked at enough. I see storage sheds going up on land. Why can't there be houses there?"

Paul Beazley of L J Hooker in Whangarei said a genuine shortage of rental properties, not just in Northland, but right throughout the country was creating pressure on rents.

"There's definitely more people coming into the region but also in the last two years because the market was so strong, that gave landlords an opportunity to sell to first-home buyers or just buyers in general.

"Normally we'd have a reasonable number of rental properties on the market but that's no longer the case because the demand is so strong."

Mr Beazley said some landlords decided to sell their rental properties ahead of changes to the Residential Tenancies Act that would increase their compliance costs.

The median weekly price for one to two-bedroom properties in Northland between January 2017 and last month rose the most, from $290 to $323.

Three to four-bedroom houses in Whangarei attracted the biggest price increase during the same period, from $395 to $440.

There were 185 residential properties for rent throughout Northland and 280 at realestate.co.nz as at 5pm yesterday.

Head of Trade Me property Nigel Jeffries said the national median weekly rent for all property types except townhouses reached a new record in January.

"Apartments and units continue to be popular across the country, particularly in Wellington. It's not surprising more tenants are considering moving into the relatively cheaper option of an apartment or a unit."