Census figures show there are thousands of unoccupied
flats and houses in Dunedin, particularly in older suburbs on
the fringes of student areas. The Star reporters Tim
Miller and Dan Hutchinson look at the increasing choice
available to students and the impact on older properties.
Otago Property Management managing director Sonia Thom
shows people what they can get for their money in a
renter-friendly market. Photo by Dan Hutchinson.
Older houses are sitting empty in Dunedin as students and
other renters favour newer developments.
Areas like Northeast Valley and City Rise have had a big
increase in the number of ''unoccupied dwellings'' in the
latest census, taken on March 5, 2013.
Overall, the number of unoccupied dwellings in Dunedin rose
from 3612 in 2006 to 3915 in 2013. The total number of
dwellings in Dunedin increased from 45,072 in 2006 to 46,590
Dunedin City Council senior planner Paul Freeland said the
increase in unoccupied dwellings could show a change in
rental practices, particularly in City Rise and North
''It may be that students and other renters are choosing
better properties in different locations which has led to
this trend, although we currently only have the census data
to indicate this,'' Mr Freeland said.
Census general manager Sarah Minson said a house was visited
three times before the census worker decided whether it was
unoccupied or the occupier was just away.
Otago Property Investors Association president Wendy Bowman
said many properties in Dunedin had become run down and
owners could no longer afford to fix them.
''They can't afford to do them up so they sell them and it is
good if they sell them because the new investors come in and
they have to spend some money on them.''
Buying insurance had become a problem for owners of older
properties, who were required to fix things such as wiring.
Ms Bowman said the amount of studio-style accommodation had
reached its maximum level but there was still a need for
student houses around the University of Otago and in North
Housing advocate Letisha Nicholas, of Generation Zero's Live
the Dream project, said there were more flats than students
but students were not always aware of that.
''That is actually really cool if they are choosing
better-quality houses and not having to pay an extortionate
amount for something that should just be the basic
Live The Dream aims to improve the quality of Dunedin's older
student flats and uses a flat, previously voted the worst in
Dunedin, as a model for how to do it.
She said campaigns run by the Otago University Students'
Association, the council, Generation Zero and others to
improve student housing might finally be having an impact.
Real Estate Institute of New Zealand Otago spokeswoman Liz
Nidd said there were more student properties than students.
She said students were becoming more discerning and favoured
houses within 10 minutes' walk of the university that had
heat pumps and dishwashers.