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A year ago, the Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust had some good news: its waiting list was finally decreasing after climbing to more than 600 families in need of affordable housing.
Before Covid-19, the waiting list was holding steady at 591 households.
But over the past nine months it has been climbing again and now sits at over 630 households.
That was despite a drop in rents, the trust’s executive officer Julie Scott said.
"While that’s great for a number of households on our waiting list having rents come down, there’s still a huge number of households throughout the district who have experienced severe loss of income, either through complete loss of income or reduced [income] and that might be one person in the household or two," she said.
"So I think because of that, we’ve seen a number of new households come on to our waiting list."
While rents had come back, they still sat above $600 per week for a three-bedroom home and despite predictions about what the pandemic would mean for property prices, the median sales price for Queenstown-Lakes was still more than $1million last month.
When combined with the reality that the number of beneficiaries tripled in the district in the past year, it painted a dire picture of how many were struggling in the community, Happiness House manager Robyn Francis said.
"It’s still evolving. The repercussions of Covid are still having an impact and each week we are seeing new people and different people coming in for support and some people are in really extreme situations," she said.
Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult said as a result of the work of the council and the community the worst-case scenario of Covid-19’s effects had not played out in the community, but the housing situation remained tough.
"We still remain an attractive place to live, it’s still a wonderfully beautiful place and so those that can find a job here are continuing to come here and remain here," he said.
"If anything, wages have dropped and the pressure is still on housing."
The council remained committed to addressing housing affordability where it could and that included supporting the work of the Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust, but support and real change needed to come from central government, he said.
"I still see this as a central government issue. Our council have taken the view that if we don’t do something about it then no-one will, but right across New Zealand it remains one of the major issues facing our country and it’s getting worse because house prices are increasing. Somewhere along the way we’ll have to find a fix for this."
The Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust has secured 50 high-density apartments in Frankton and construction is under way on six homes in Wanaka.
Dozens more sections are planned in Lake Hayes and Arrowtown.
Ms Scott said the trust had about 300 properties in its pipeline, which would bring some relief to the waiting list.