Renting in New Zealand – Spinoff looks at what its like

Renting in New Zealand is now the way most of us live. Spinoff editor Duncan Greive looks at the issues around renting in New Zealand.

A couple of weeks ago Arthur Grimes, the former chair of the Reserve Bank, was interviewed on Nine to Noon by Kathryn Ryan. The occasion was a report by his research lab Motu, which had discovered a 1:6 cost:benefit ratio for the government’s insulation subsidy scheme, one which the University of Otago’s Philippa Howden-Chapman called “the strongest evidence the government has around social investment”. It’s also being wound down, despite 600,000-900,000 homes remaining with either inadequate insulation, or no insulation at all.

It was a reminder, yet again, of what a shitty place New Zealand can be to rent a home. Grimes explained the cause of the phenomenon succinctly.

“New Zealand has a very odd structure in terms of landlords,” he told Ryan, “in that we have a lot of, essentially what I’d call amateur landlords. They don’t have the expertise to do it properly. And it’s a very poor service that they provide.”

Maybe that was always the case. But, while that’s never been good enough, it matters more now: over half of the New Zealand population now lives in a rental, and the numbers are higher where they’re always higher: Māori and Pasifika. These statistics, gathered in the 2013 census, largely pre-date the worst excesses of the housing crisis – and so are likely to have grown apace since.

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This has left vast numbers of our young, and significant amounts of our old, trapped in the rental market – dealing with homes which are often cold, damp, mouldy, expensive and in poor condition. And because so many of the protections which exist in other countries are absent here, a tenant’s ability to reliably locate a quality, stable long-term rental comes down to luck. Which doesn’t seem like a solid basis for the single biggest and most important expense in your household budget.

Read more here.

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