The CHB property market is thriving, but with that upside, comes a downside as rents also rise. Bea Ridgway, 86, says she is moving out of her Waipawa flat after her new landlord decided to increase her rent by 73 per cent. The landord says unfortunately, that's now par for the CHB rental course. Georgia May reports
Bea Ridgway makes her way from her kitchen towards the coffee table in her lounge.
The 86-year-old and mother of four uses a crutch, after a fall only weeks ago. She's waiting for knee surgery at Hawke's Bay Hospital.
Even with the crutch, it doesn't take long - it's not a big lounge - but getting around for the retired nurse is a hassle.
The compact one-bedroom flat has been Ridgway's home for five and a half years.
But that's about to change - the property market in CHB has been on the up in the past 12 months, homes and land are increasing in value.
And rents are rising too. Ridgway's is going from $150 to $260 - an increase of 73 per cent.
Last year, the rateable values of CHB homes soared by 55 per cent. CHB mayor Alex Walker noted at the time "the secret is out" - and "Central Hawke's Bay is a place where families and business can thrive".
She has also observed that along with a housing boom, CHB has a housing crisis - not everyone is thriving.
As of last month, at least 38 CHB families were homeless and struggling to find accommodation.
Rising rents don't help.
Seventy three per cent is too much for Ridgway - a great grandmother of seven who made a name for herself back in 2017, after spending her pension money on a professionally-made placard urging shoppers to ditch plastic bags.
Ridgway lives in one of four small flats nestled off Ruataniwha St in the Central Hawke's Bay town which were sold to D & A Property last month.
A company spokesman told Hawke's Bay Today that the rent was being increased in the flats after professional appraisals. The new rentals were also in line with Tenancy Services "Median Rent" for similar properties recently rented in the area.
"This is a large increase, however, the property has been rented at significantly below market rent for some time."
Ridgway moved into the small flat, not intending to stay long.
But her small living room is now filled with ornaments and photos - memories that she'll have to pile into boxes in a few months' time.
"We got a note in the letterbox from him (the landlord) informing us of the raised rent the following day of the sale," Ridgway said.
"It goes up on the 1st of August, so I hope to be out by then."
A neighbour is also moving out.
"It's just too much, so I've managed to buy myself a house elsewhere," the nieghbour said.
Ridgway isn't so lucky and is unsure of her future.
She said she was disappointed in the way the rent increase was communicated to the tenants.
"There was no actual contact, he just left a letter," she said.
The D & A Property spokesman said he could understand Ridgway's reaction, but he had found many tenants preferred time to read the letter before speaking with their landlord.
"I would and will happily go to meet with any tenant if they have concerns."
Ridgway's daughter Helen said while the news was disappointing, rental increases were now a way of life.
"This sort of thing is happening all over the country and Hawke's Bay is a region which is becoming increasingly popular for homebuyers, so it wasn't unexpected. It's part of life.
"In saying that, it's never easy trying to find another place to live," she said.
Ridgway has been on the list for a flat in Abercorn Court - a series of flats further down the road - for a number of years and is still waiting for one to become available.
"I think I might be second on the list now, but the likelihood of getting one before August is pretty slim. The flats at Abercorn are far superior than these ones and the rent is cheaper too, it's under $200.
"I'm not in the position to buy a house, I just want somewhere cosy with low maintenance so I can have my little garden."
Ridgway said even though she was supported by family, she was determined to live on her own and maintain her independence.
The D & A Property spokesman said the increase also reflected the costs of keeping a rental property.
"Even with the rent increase we will be subsidising the running costs for the next few years.
"The property also needs work to be brought in line with the Healthy Homes standards, something we support."
D & A Property provided 60 days notice before the new increase and understood the tenants were made fully aware during the sale process that the rent had been below market value and would likely increase on sale of the properties.
The company had been offered "vacant possession" upon purchase, which would have resulted in all tenants having 45 days to vacate.
"However we are fully aware of the difficulty finding homes in Hawke's Bay so rather than see tenants lose homes we would rather work with them and offer them the option to stay."
Central Hawke's Bay Mayor Alex Walker said there was a housing crisis in the district and council was working with Housing New Zealand to address it.
"Twelve months ago Housing NZ announced that previously there had been zero purchasing intentions to purchase or develop public housing in CHB, but they've now changed that," she said.
"Council has been working with Housing NZ and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development on how to accelerate that investment, because Housing NZ is currently the only public housing provider in Central Hawke's Bay. We are still yet to land on a proposal where they will purchase or develop property.
"I am incredibly frustrated by this, as these talks have been going on for years."
Walker said the selling of property to out-of-town investors had been very successful, but with that she had seen others exiting the market.
"That's great for people who want to move here and first time buyers, but it's also put massive pressure on affordable properties and that's partly why we're in this sort of situation."