Mandy Te, stuff.co.nz, 17 September 2020
The Green Party and The Opportunities Party have announced they will both support the introduction of rent caps which would limit the amount a landlord could increase rent.
At the Enough for All: Election Forum 2020 event in Wellington Central on Wednesday evening, a renter called Zoe told politicians about her renting experience in the capital city.
“In 2017, I moved into an eight-bedroom flat in central Wellington – nine of us lived there in order to make it affordable, and we shared a rent of $1600 per week,” she said.
“My rent for a room that could charitably be called a shoebox room was $205 a week which was more than half my income at the time.”
Affording the rent was stressful for Zoe and her flatmates – many had taken on one or more jobs while studying to cover it.
“It wasn’t an uncommon occurrence that me and my flatmates needed to often cover for our other flatmates because of the inability to pay rents on time.”
While they managed to make their payments every week, Zoe said their home was not warm or dry.
“In our first winter in the flat, I began to notice black mould on my ceiling.”
A month later, the roof in her room began to leak and later, pour, she said.
The flat was offered $200 in compensation.
Zoe said their rent was hiked up year after year – in 2018, it was $1700 per week and in 2019, it was put up to $1800.
To make rent affordable, 11 people were living in the property.
In February, the flat was told their rent was going up again by $200 – making it $2000 a week.
“Obviously we moved out because it was unaffordable and over that same period, my income and the same with my flatmates’ [income] had barely gone up.”
Renters needed action now, she told politicians.
“My question to you is: until the rental housing supply kicks up with demand, does your party support introducing rent caps to limit the amount by which landlords can raise rent?”
Ricardo Menéndez-March from the Green Party said it supported “to legislate to ensure secure and affordable long-term rental accommodation”.
“I do think we need to we need to make sure landlords are not ripping us off in the middle of a housing crisis.”
It was “absolutely unfair” for people to be spending most of their income on rent and “people here are going without because of high rents”.
National Party’s Nicola Willis acknowledged that there was a massive housing challenge in Wellington but the party would not support the introduction of rent caps.
“We have to increase the supply of housing that’s why we’re committing to replacing and appealing the Resource Management Act … we believe that kind of systemic reform gets to the nub of our housing issue which comes down to not enough houses to keep up with demand. When we solve that, then rents and house ownership become more affordable.”
Taylor Arneil from New Zealand First said it advocated for the building of more homes instead of introducing rent caps.
Labour Party’s Andrew Little said it did not support introducing rent caps.
“This Government has done a number of things. We have regulated what landlords can and cannot do or need to do in terms of quality of housing and many things are starting to kick in,” he said.
The Labour Party had inherited a housing crisis from the previous Government which had reduced the country’s state housing stock, he said.
The current Government had added to social housing, he said.
“There is more to do and Kiwibuild hasn’t been the success we would have hoped it might be, but we have built houses that are more affordable for more people, and we need to continue through things likes progressive home ownership schemes,” Little said.
The Opportunities Party leader Geoff Simmons said housing was the biggest issue facing New Zealand.
“To solve this problem we need to hold house prices and rents stable for another generation to allow our incomes to catch up,” Simmons said.
“So this is a massive, massive challenge – it is going to take lots of different actions to do that.”
Anna Mooney, spokeswoman for Renters United, a group that advocates for renters and has begun a petition for fair rent, said it was unfortunate “National, Labour and NZ First are offering no solutions to runaway rents other than increasing supply”.
“That will take decades, while renters fall deeper into hardship,” Mooney said.
“Renters United wants to see rent caps in which landlords cannot raise rent by more than inflation. This is the only way to stop rents from becoming more unaffordable.”