Auckland tenants say they are trapped in a bidding war in a city choked for rental properties, as consents for new housing hit a 46-year record low.
Desperate house hunters are sending realtors full CVs with photographs before viewings - which they turn up to with applications already filled out - and one renter says he has been up against offers to pay $100 extra a week.
Auckland Mayor Len Brown says affordable housing is one of the big issues facing the city as it welcomes its 1.5 millionth resident this week.
Statistics New Zealand announced yesterday that 13,662 consents had been issued for dwellings, including apartments, in the year to December - down 12 per cent and the lowest on record.
Realtor Darryl Goode, of Goode Rentals, said the situation was leading to frantic competition and climbing rents.
"I'm finding people are coming in with their applications already filled out," he said.
Others sent him CVs with photographs ahead of the viewings. "They arrive and hope it has put them one step ahead of everyone else. I guess it makes a difference. It makes them look professional and more like a good tenant," he said.
"People are offering more rent to try to secure the properties over their competition.
"We put it to the landlords, and most like to have a little bit more - but at the end of the day it's all about a fair market rent."
Existing tenancies were also getting bumped up, he said.
"I specialise in central suburbs and rents are increasing on pretty much all our tenancies. There are increased body corp fees, rates and other general costs.
"I think it's just going to get worse."
Crockers Property said the average rent for a three-bedroom home in Auckland was now $500 a week - up $25 on last year and a record high - compared with $350 a week in the rest of New Zealand. Rents in bluechip suburbs such as Takapuna, the central city, Grey Lynn, Ponsonby and Remuera were forcing the average up.
Brad McLeigh has been looking for a three-bedroom house since November, and told the Herald about being caught up in bidding wars.
He would register his interest in a property with the agent - and get a call that the owner wanted to increase the rent by $50 because of the response. One $850 rent was pushed up to $950, and he still failed to get the property. "If I was unsuccessful at a rent of $850, pushed to $950, what did it rent out as - $1000?"
Viewings were also fraught with competition, he said.
"As soon as that gun goes you have 40 other prospective tenants to compete against, showing yourself off as best tenant: references, explaining your professional job and how you are hardly even home and just want a clean, tidy place."
He would come across the same people at property viewings over several weeks.
"You have seen them at your three last viewings, perfect couple, glowing references, same tastes in properties as you."
One such "nemesis" had put in bids of $100 extra a week, and was still coming back.
Mayor Brown said affordable housing remained one of the big issues facing the region and was a priority for the council.
"Housing construction has fallen behind demand in recent years," Mr Brown said.
"The rental market has always been quite cyclical, but what we hope to achieve through the Auckland Plan is to ensure enough quality affordable housing is built where people want to live and work. That's what the compact city concept is all about."
Labour Party Auckland spokesman Phil Twyford said the housing situation had become a "crisis".
"It's part of a much wider problem for Auckland ... Aucklanders have been priced out of the housing market, and the dream of a home is slipping further from their grasp."
Poor public transport was part of the reason so many people wanted to live close to the central city, he said.
The Labour Party would be releasing a proposal for major reform for housing affordability, but it was too early to say what direction it would take, Mr Twyford said.
Housing Minister Phil Heatley said the fall of dwelling consents during the global financial crisis contributed to the pressure on housing in Auckland.
"However, residential building activity has since picked up and has increased over the past three months, which is a positive sign ... I am aware of the competition for rental housing. We simply have to encourage the construction sector to start building again."
The Government's focus was on streamlining the Resource Management Act and the Building Act to make consenting quicker and cheaper and to keep costs down.
"The Government also asked the Productivity Commission to examine the issues about housing supply and affordability, and their final report is due shortly," Mr Heatley said.
* $500 - average rent in Auckland for a 3-bedroom home, a record high.
* $350 - average rent in rest of NZ for a 3-bedroom home. Prices have remained stable.
* Nationwide building consents down 12 per cent last year.
* Lowest for a year since records began in 1965.
Source: Crockers/Statistics NZ