Forced to pay nearly $4000 in motel accommodation in just one month, Mohammad Mushakir is not surprised the weekly rent rise in Whangarei is the highest in the country.
Trade Me Rental Price Index shows the median weekly rent in Northland rose 12.9 per cent in just a year, from $350 in December 2016 to $395 for the same month last year.
One woman in Whangarei had no option but to move to Paeroa in Waikato because she could not afford to pay $400 or more in rent.
Head of Trade Me Property Nigel Jeffries said Northland's population growth, both natural increases and net migration, and the fact potential home buyers were staying in rental properties longer, had resulted in a fierce demand for houses to rent.
There is no short-term respite for struggling families as the national median weekly rent is expected to increase between 3 per cent and 5 per cent this year as demand continues to exceed supply.
Mr Mushakir, an auto electrician who moved to Whangarei from Tauranga with his wife and two children, has been staying in the Central Court Motel since January 8 as he could not find a suitable rental property. The Mushakirs, from Sri Lanka, have a son aged 5 and a 1-year-old daughter.
A local told him about the availability of a privately advertised three-bedroom house in Maunu for $380 and he snapped it up.
"I'd have paid nearly $4000 to the motel by the time I move out to the three-bedroom house this weekend and it's all coming from my savings. It's especially tough when you have a young family," he said.
To make matters worse, he cannot currently work as his work visa needs to be varied to reflect a change in employment.
"I registered with almost all real estate agents in Whangarei back in November last year but they said either there were not enough properties available or those available are going for $430 or $450 which I couldn't afford," he said.
Mr Mushakir said he counted up to 15 people at a house viewing in Whangarei which indicated how desperate the situation was for a lot of families. The thought of not being able to secure a long-term rental constantly played in his mind as his savings dried up.
Leah, who does not want her surname used, found it impossible to find a suitable house for her family of three after her landlord decided to move into the $355-a-week, three-bedroom property in Kamo she was renting. She is now living with family in Paeroa.
"Northlanders need good paying jobs or Work and Income needs to increase the rental supplement. Apart from rent, food and power prices are also quite high," she said.
Mr Jeffries said Northland was a victim of its own success.
"Although there's high unemployment and limited job prospects, business and consumer confidence is making it an attractive region for people to move to."
Viewing of rental properties in Northland by Trade Me members was up 6 per cent in the past one year compared to 2016. But the number of available listings in Northland last year was down 25 per cent on the previous year, he said.
"The houses [being built] in Northland is 0.6 per cent of the total housing stock in the region but the problem is demand is higher and so more houses need to be built. Then there's the roading network between Northland and Auckland which means people are happy to commute longer. Good fibre network means people can go to work for three days then work from home for two days," Mr Jeffries said.
There were 105 rental properties in Whangarei advertised on Trade Me at 3.30pm yesterday, 37 in the mid and far north, and 20 in Kaipara.
Nationally the number of available rentals has fallen 49 per cent since December 2016 and the median weekly rent has risen 2.2 per cent to $460 per week.