Queenstown housing: 'The situation hasn't gotten any better'

2 minutes read
Posted 28 March, 2024
Screenshot 2024 03 28 080306

Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

A community housing leader wants the government to take firmer action to address Queenstown's long-running rental crisis.

The accommodation crunch in the tourist town has forced some people to live in tents and cars, and hiked up the prices of available rentals.

Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust chief executive Julie Scott said a record number of households were currently waiting for housing support in the district.

"The situation hasn't gotten any better. We have 1200 eligible households on our waiting list, and it continues to go up every single day," she said.

Scott said heading into winter it would only get worse.

"It's starting to get really cold down here already, and anecdotally with the social services agencies there's a lot of concerns."

In 2024, the rent for an average three-bedroom property in Queenstown was $907 per week, and in the higher quartile about $1044 a week, Scott said.

"It's hugely significant if you're a low to moderate income household. That's a massive chunk of your wages going out just in rent, and that becomes really difficult for families to get by, and they end up sometimes having to sublet rooms," she said.

"Another issue we have in the Queenstown Lakes is that some of properties are very old, cold and damp and they take a lot of heating in winter, so some people have power bills as high as $1000 a month in winter.

"Add that to $1000 a week in rent and it's just spiralling out of control."

The government announced it would look at options to address a zoning issue that limited how much financial support Queenstown residents could get for accommodation.

Cabinet had agreed on a response to the Petitions Committee, which had recommended the geographic information the ministry used to determine how much accommodation supplement could be paid in different parts of the country be updated every time Stats NZ updated its own geographic boundaries.

Social Development and Employment Minister Louise Upston said the use of outdated geographic information and classifications by the ministry had seen some households receive a lower accommodation supplement than they otherwise would.

"The coalition government agreed that more regular updates would help the accommodation supplement remain fit-for-purpose, and we've commissioned further advice on a financially sustainable way to do this," she said.

"We aren't progressing the Select Committee's recommendation because this could require sporadic updates to the accommodation supplement in different parts of the country at different times, and the administrative cost to taxpayers of this would likely outweigh the value."

Scott said more urgent action was needed from the government on Queenstown's situation.

"They've certainly acknowledged there's an issue in the Queenstown Lakes area and they want to do something about it and make sure it's fair and consistent across the country, which is what we've been advocating for for several years now.

"But it is a bit little disappointing that they haven't accepted the recommendation from the panel to proceed with it straight away. That's certainly the outcome we were seeking from the government."


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