Tu Meke BBQ owners Andrew and Melissa Poswillo are leaving town after an unsuccessful search for a home in Marlborough. Photo: Matt Brown.

Housing shortfall hurting families

Housing headaches are forcing people out of the region in a bid to find homes.

A lack of suitable housing has forced a young family to look for greener pastures.

And a young mum who cannot find a rental is facing the possibility of having to live in her car.

Successful business owners, husband and wife team Andrew and Melissa Poswillo, are packing up their young family after months of unsuccessfully trying to find somewhere to live in Marlborough.

“We had plans of putting down roots, but it all fell apart,” Mel says.

A passion for BBQ and six years of dreaming brought the couple back to the region from Australia to open their popular food truck, Tu Meke.

But rising house prices, a lack of properties coming to the market and stringent covenants in new residential areas have left the couple disillusioned.

“We’re leaving because we’re finding it so hard to find somewhere to live,” Melissa says.

New Zealand First Kaikōura candidate Jamie Arbuckle with party leader Winston Peters. Photo: Matt Brown.
New Zealand First Kaikōura candidate Jamie Arbuckle with party leader Winston Peters. Photo: Matt Brown.

“We’re gutted – we built our business really strongly here and we have had amazing support in town.”

Covenants in some new subdivisions outlawing sign-written vehicles on the street added insult to injury.

Trademe Property lists nearly 200 houses with three plus bedrooms for under $400,000 in Christchurch.

Blenheim has just six.

The online auction site has only 26 houses available for rent in the Marlborough region while Christchurch city has 1166.

Andrew fears the housing crisis will “get worse before it gets better”.

“We don’t want to live in a car,” he says. “We were all banking on this working out.”

“But you’ve got to roll with the punches.”

Mum of two Becky Corbett has been desperately trying to secure a rental property in Blenheim or Picton.

While money is not an issue, she says she has had no success.

“We’re a two-income family of four desperately needing a new place to call home.

“It’s horrible and the judgement and assumptions just make it so much worse.

“We can’t find a home, but real estate agents rent to single people who then rent the rooms to temporary workers in the area.

She has rented a caravan but needs to find somewhere to put it.

“I’ve managed to rent a caravan for my family while we look for a house. However, the campground no longer has long term sites available.”

“I’m literally about to be living in my car with my kids but no one seems to grasp the affect that has living with that thought,” she says.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, while visiting Blenheim on Friday, says the region’s lack of housing is a “perfect statistical storm which we can fix”.

“I wouldn’t have a bunch of Wellington bureaucrats working on a housing problem. Full stop,” he says.

“I’d go and see builders and get them to do the job.”

“We used to be the biggest house ownership nations in the world.

“We believe that the economic future of this country and the wealth creation of this country lies in the provinces and always has.”

Peters says he would change the planning laws “so that one third of your house building costs are not going to this needless red-tape bureaucracy.”

“Then look at the house commodity pricing market and ensure that duopolies are not controlling an artificial market.”

REINZ chief executive Bindi Norwell says houses are selling quickly; the average of 26 days is the fastest since August 2016.

“The number of properties being sold is exceeding the number of new listings on the market which is likely to be pushing up prices and contributing to the shortage of stock.”

She says Marlborough had the fewest number of houses for sale, 162, since records began.

Melissa says leaving was a hard decision.

“There’s a huge crisis here,” she says.

“Even rentals, there are just none.”

Booked events have been cancelled and suppliers informed of their impending departure.

“We’ve committed ourselves to leaving, but Tu Meke will continue,” Andrew says.

“We’ll be up here doing pop ups and events.

“Thank you all so much for the love and support you’ve thrown us over the past few months. It’s been amazing.”

There could be more rentals on the market when the country leaves lockdown level four. Photo: Supplied.

Airbnb crash could solve rental shortage

Out of luck renters looking for their next home could see some relief as property owners look to convert their empty Airbnbs.

Blenheim-based property managers are predicting Airbnb owners may make the switch as tourism around the country dries up.

But until lockdown restrictions are lifted, the rental market is on hold.

Harcourts Marlborough senior property manager Lavina Diamanti says the move could help ease pressure and housing shortages.

There are 16 rental properties in Marlborough listed on Trademe, with one in Kaikoura and one in Picton while Airbnb lists more than 100 places to stay in the region.

“We’ve had a real shortage of rentals and a lot of people struggling to find a home,” Lavina says.

“Potentially, we could have a more balanced market.”

She says Marlborough’s demographic and industry means, typically, Marlborough isn’t hit as hard by downturns in the property market.

But she says predicting the effect of Covid-19 on the market is “crystal ball stuff”.

First National Marlborough senior property manager Mariette Knudsen says rental demand has plummeted as people isolate themselves to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“There are quite a few Airbnb in Blenheim and there are cancellations happening everywhere,” she says.

“The nice ones with good reviews will probably hold on,” Mariette says.

“I think there will be Airbnb’s coming onto the market, but not all of them.”

She says the increase in stock most likely won’t affect the price of a rental.

“It’s supply and demand,” she says.

“People still need a place to live.”

She says rent increases across New Zealand are caused by a combination of demand and the new healthy homes requirements.

“Being a landlord myself, it’s affected us considerably.

“If there is an adjustment, I don’t think it will be a major one.”