6 Jan 2016

Rising Auckland rents separating families, say budget advisors

10:15 am on 6 January 2016

Budget advisors are seeing a worrying trend of people having to send their children away while they search for jobs and homes in Auckland.

Boats moored in waters in front of the Auckland city skyline: February 2014

Rents in Auckland have risen sharply. Photo: AFP

Mangere Budgeting and Family Support Service CEO Darryl Evans said a big increase in the cost of renting private homes in the past year or so meant many families were paying 65 percent of their weekly income on rent.

Increased rents had also been matched by increasing demand, with 30 to 40 people competing for each rental.

The level of competition meant landlords were unlikely to choose those on the minimum wage or unemployment benefit as tenants, he said.

Mr Evans knew of two families who, unable to pay their rent, were forced from their homes.

The first, who had three children, lost their home and while the parents moved to a boarding house, they didn't think it was an appropriate place for their children.

"Mum and Dad are very keen to get a job in Auckland so they are now living in the boarding house and the three children have gone to live with grandparents down the line," he said.

"In another case, exactly the same scenario, the husband lost his job and about three months later was unable to secure a job, so unfortunately they fell into rental arrears.

They're actually staying on the sofa of a friend and their two children are staying with the husband's sister in Whanganui," he said.

Mr Evans said there were more and more cases of people having to "move their children sideways" to stay with family and friends whilst the parents, or parent, tried to find a job and an affordable home.

He said this impacted negatively on the parents and the children.

"Nearly all parents that I know want their children close by and certainly want them in the family home.

"Those children have left a school they enjoyed, they've left their friends.

"They're not seeing Mum and Dad as often as they want to. I understand that they're communicating by telephone, but it's not the same as being able to tuck your kids in at night and your kids coming in for a cuddle.

"The long term impacts are there and something has to be done. we've got to look at how do we free up more housing in Auckland, how do we reduce the prices?"

He said his hope for the two families was that they would be in a car back to Auckland, once their parents had found work.

But the question was whether families could sustain living together in Auckland long term.

Mr Evans said he wasn't blaming the government solely, but more had to be done to create jobs, cheaper housing options and better access to state housing.

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