Dunedin students appear to be scrambling to find flats for next year as a housing shortage and the looming healthy homes standards start having an early effect on the market.
Otago Polytechnic Students’ Association president Ezra Tamati and Otago University Students’ Association president Michaela Waite-Harvey said a decrease in the number of flats on offer meant many students were struggling to find rental accommodation for next year, despite starting their searches earlier this year.
Ms Waite-Harvey said the main story she had heard was that landlords were simply selling their properties to first-home buyers, to address the national housing shortage.
Mr Tamati said the healthy homes standards might also be playing a part.
‘‘The healthier homes standards are about to kick in next year and most houses in the north end are going to have to be done up.
‘‘That means they will cost a lot more to rent, and in a lot of cases it will put them out of the financial reach of students.’’
Ms Waite-Harvey said there had also been rent increases that were not sustainable for students, after some landlords ‘‘purposefully’’ put their rents up next year in line with student allowance increases.
She said there would also be a strain on rental supply because construction work would have to be carried out on many flats, making them unlivable for some periods of next year.
Mr Tamati believed another issue was that once the upgrade work was complete, many flats’ owners would not want students to be living in them because they were more likely to be damaged.
‘‘Students will be students, so landlords are getting sick of that as well.’’
Ms Waite-Harvey said that for that reason, some groups of male students were being turned away from flats because many landlords wanted women only.
Mr Tamati said he had heard real estate agents say parents were calling them and saying their children had been looking for a house for ages, without success.
‘‘They’re saying, ‘Nothing is there. Can you help me?’.
‘‘It’s desperate out there.’’
Cutlers Ltd managing director Matt Cutler agreed there was a shortage of rental properties in popular student areas, but he believed it was because of other factors.
There were extra students coming to the city because Covid-19 had put a stop to gap years, and the Government was offering first-year tertiary study free.
But the main reason was an increase in the number of families willing to pay more for rental properties.
In the past, there were a lot more students living in North East Valley, Opoho, Maori Hill and St Clair.
However, landlords were choosing to rent those houses to families because they would stay for longer terms and would take better care of the property.
‘‘Whether this becomes a normal thing, I’m not too sure.’’
Mr Tamati said if the situation persisted, it would be ‘‘very concerning’’.
Students would have to make a choice between renting tertiary provided accommodation (which was more expensive), fighting over what was left in the north end rental market in the hope of getting one, or renting properties in other parts of the city.
‘‘We can only wait to find out what will happen, because none of us are fortune-tellers.’’