How young people in Wellington are beating the housing crisis

Housing for young people in Wellington is reaching a crisis point. 

Data from Trade Me shows the capital is the most expensive city to rent in New Zealand, and with prices rising, people are being forced to find alternative housing solutions.

Tamatha Paul is the President of Victoria University of Wellington's Student Association, and she knows all too well how the lack of housing affects young people.

She says housing in Wellington city is often "desperate, and makeshift," especially for students.

The average rental price in the capital is $580 per week - and that doesn't include bills. Or food.

On top of the price, there are simply not enough houses to go around.

"The lack of rental properties is a problem," said Trade Me's head of rentals Aaron Clancy.

"If demand continues to increase we may see an uncharacteristic jump in rental prices in the near future. March saw 17 percent more enquiries on rental properties in the Wellington region than last year."

And it's likely demand will continue to increase. 

Data from Stats NZ predicts the population in Wellington city will grow by 9,800 to a population of 222,600 in the next four years. 

That excludes Wellington city's neighbours, Lower and Upper Hutt, Porirua and Kapiti Coast, all of which are expected to grow as well.

Wellington city
Wellington city Photo credit: Google Maps

With new people predicted to flood into a city that already feels at capacity, it's no wonder young people are concerned.

Tamatha says it's a constant battle.

"Not a week goes by where we don't see at least one student who is either homeless or couch surfing or in a really vulnerable position," she told Newshub.

"Landlords out there make the most of knowing it is so hard for students to find houses. Young people in general, not just students," 

"I think they're bottom of the pile, and having to fight over the scraps that are left. And that looks like cold, damp, mouldy flats."

Tamatha says VUWSA tried to advocate for students and put them in contact with groups who can help - but there is a limit.

"There's only so much you can do when the supply [of housing] itself is tiny."

Twenty-three-year-old Ciaran has found a workaround for the housing crisis that doesn't involve sleeping in his car, or couch surfing - although he did couch surf previously.

He's been living in his workshop for the past three years.

Before the workshop, Ciaran was living in a double garage without a toilet, so his new arrangement is a step up.

There's no shower, and no real kitchen - but Ciaran is a simple man, so the lack of amenities doesn't bother him. He showers at work and, as for meals - he's got it sussed.

"I have a packet of beans and a packet of rice and I chuck it in the microwave and I do that every day. And it's always the same flavour."

It might be bare, but Ciaran says his unique home has everything he needs, and he wouldn't have it any other way.

"I love it here," he told Newshub.

"Workshopping is a big part of who I am, so living in a workshop makes a lot of sense but it's also financially smart. I'm essentially paying future Ciaran, rather than a landlord," 

Ciaran pays a mortgage, but at $150 per week, he's better off than the average Wellingtonian. Plus there's no landlord to contend with.

"It's my space. I don't have to worry about the owner selling up. If there's issues, I'm the one that gets to fix them so I don't have to wait for someone else to not fix them."

"I can see myself being here for the long term. I love it here."

While Ciaran's solution is legal - others are not as lucky.

One Wellington man, who wished to remain anonymous, has been living illegally as a fifth person in a four-person flat for the past year.

"So I'm living in a house where I'm not signed up on the tenancy or anything - but I'm still paying rent and stuff," he told Newshub.

He says his experience is "super common" in the capital.

"Our rent prices are insanely high, and getting higher every year. So I think there's quite a few people in the same situation I am." 

He says his clandestine living situation saves him around $100 a week - but it has a different kind of cost.

"[The landlords] have no idea," he told Newshub

"But it does weigh on my mind. It's stressful knowing you're doing something wrong, but there really aren't many options [in Wellington]."