29 May 2014

Christchurch rents still 'sky high'

3:43 pm on 29 May 2014

There has been a warning that a return to pre-earthquake numbers of houses in Christchurch may not be enough to ease the city's housing crisis.

Minister of Housing Nick Smith said he expects Christchurch's housing stock will be back to pre-earthquake levels by 2016, but some in the city say that won't solve the city's problems.

Nick Smith.

Nick Smith. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Around 11,000 homes were destroyed in the Canterbury earthquakes, and 30,000 damaged.

Brenda Lowe-Johnson, a community board member and an advocate for people with housing problems, said the shortage of houses has sent rents sky high, and she fears they will never go back down.

She said people are now being asked to pay up to $900 a week for a two bedroom house, which many can't afford.

"That's why we have so many people living in garages, and in caravan and cars, and children with them. I think he's got his head in the sand there to be honest," Ms Lowe-Johnson said.

Managing director of Professional Kennard Real Estate Colin Lock said many people are now getting back into their homes after repairs and rebuilds.

He questions whether pre-earthquake level house numbers will be enough to accommodate the city's growing population.

He recently attended an event at which a representative of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) said 15 new people are moving to Christchurch each day.

Mr Lock said he's also mindful that migration levels are increasing.

"I'm wondering where they are all going to live. Is the current housing stock at pre-earthquake levels going to be sufficient?"

President of the Independent Property Managers Association Martin Evans said he thinks the pressure on the housing market is already easing. He said the demand is dropping, and rental prices have stabilised, though they haven't reduced.

Labour Party housing spokesperson, Phil Twyford, is less convinced. He said Mr Smith is only quoting consent figures, not actual houses being built.

"People can't live in a consent, they need a house. I think it borders on criminal that people in Canterbury are facing the third winter after the quakes and fewer than 1000 of the 12,000 houses (lost) have been built."

Mr Twyford said Mr Smith has taken the same approach to the housing problem in Auckland, where he is also talking about consent figures, not about actual houses built.