This week John Key appeared to finally address New Zealand's housing crisis and announced an injection of NZ$1 billion to fast-track new homes in high demand areas. Key explained that the fund, which is actually a 10-year-loan councils will pay back, would go towards building roads and other infrastructure needed to support new housing developments. This move was quickly criticised as a bandaid for the multi-billion dollar hole already in Auckland's housing infrastructure, and Opposition leader Andrew Little said it would do little to ease the pain for first-home buyers.
The median house price in Auckland is now 10 times the median income. This divide has triggered a brain drain to the provinces, while in some situations soaring rents have forced working families to live in their cars. All this puts home ownership way out of reach for many millennials, now labelled "Generation Rent," who potentially face a future of renting in an overheated market.
To get a sense of what this looks like we asked Auckland's young renters to show us how they live.
Geraldine and her flatmates painted the interior of their house when they moved in.
Five-bedroom house $1000/week
Distance from CBD: 8km
How difficult was it for you to find a flat?
So, so hard. Every viewing we'd go to there'd be like 100 people. People were trying to bribe agents and turning up in suits. I found this place and it literally had no photos online. We signed a lease on the spot. We painted it, patched up the walls, and then moved in. We decided to stay another year because it was so hard to find to begin with.
That's pretty unusual isn't it? For the tenants to do work on the property?
Yeah definitely, but we had three extra people staying with us at the beginning because they were flatless. The struggle is real. There's no warrant of fitness of houses and rents are rising every year.
It feels a bit unreal.
Exactly. I mean what family would want this place? It's unliveable for a family. For families on the benefit struggling to make ends meet, these rents are ridiculous. People are living in their cars.
Do you think you're going to be renting for the rest of your life?
I'm moving to Wellington next year. I hope it's better there but if I stayed in Auckland, definitely. There are so many people that will be without that asset.
"The idea of buying a house is not in my future." - George
Five-bedroom house $1200/week
Distance from CBD: 3KM
How competitive was it when you were flat hunting?
Every viewing that we turned up to there were quite a few groups already there. It's also hard to tell what you're getting rejected for. There was one we turned up to in Grey Lynn and it was literally a dungeon below another flat, that was being offered for $1200 a week. It was disgusting, but we were still tempted. For this place, we handed our application in on the spot.
I mean this place is quite nice. Do you count yourself lucky?
Absolutely, I mean after searching for months, just by chance we stumbled across this place. It was pure luck. We could easily still be looking.
You're from Auckland, is owning your own house here in your foreseeable future? Is it feasible?
Ah, no. The idea of buying a house is not in my future. If I was to buy a house, I would need help from my parents and I would be really uncomfortable with that. I would want it to be my own achievement. So no. Not unless I win Lotto.
Close to town, never mind the lean.
Three-bedroom split villa $600/week
Distance from CBD: 4km
Tell me what your process was to find this place.
You have to plan the move so far in advance, literally months. We just knew we had to be close to the city, because that's where we all worked. Even though we are living under another a house, we're pretty happy. We were going to viewings with a wad of cash asking if we could pay the letting fee on the spot so we could get the flat. That's how we got this.
So you were essentially taking a bribe with you.
Yeah. I guess so, but we did it and it worked. We needed a place desperately so it was just here's the money.
Cash is king, huh?
For sure, it's just something you have to do in this climate. I mean there are issues. I can see mould growing on my dressing gown right now. You can see the house is on a lean, like it's fully on an angle. The floor goes uphill. I know we're paying too much, but it's the location.
Do you ever see yourself buying a property in Auckland?
Buying? Absolutely not. That's another world. It would never be in Auckland, not an option. I can't imagine.
"You could score the job of your dreams and still not be able to afford a house in Auckland." - Mitch
Six-bedroom house $1000/week
Distance from CBD: 10km
How difficult was it to find your flat?
Really difficult. We were screwed from the beginning, a flat of six males. Even mixed flats or girls flats couldn't get places, so we knew we couldn't be picky. This was way farther out than we wanted, but somehow we scored it. We never would have found it if we moved closer.
So location was the major sacrifice?
Yeah definitely, we're a two-stage bus out of the city so like 40 minutes. I think we're pretty lucky, but you've got to be resourceful. We've been here for two years, so we managed to sneak in here before it got really bad. I would've been keen to move on after a year if it was easy, but it was such a mare. I was looking at places way out West, like Piha [beach], just because it's cheaper. You have to lower your expectations.
Can you see yourself buying a house here?
I don't think I'll ever be in the housing market in Auckland. It's not realistic.
What's it like knowing you have to totally rule that out?
It's pretty depressing. Knowing that you could score the job of your dreams and still not be able to afford a house in Auckland. Before we moved in this place sold for $1.8 million. So yeah, Generation Rent is the reality.
All photos by the author.
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