Property investors are fleeing the market because they're sick of being "vilified", the head of the Property Investors Federation has claimed.
New figures from Trade Me suggest there's a shortage of places available to rent, down 49 percent between December and January nationwide.
It's particularly tight in the capital, where the median rent has risen $30 since October. One two-bedroom place had 55 applications in a single day.
Andrew King, executive officer of the Property Investors Federation says landlords have had enough, and are now finding other things to do with their money.
"People are getting out of the market - they'll be retiring, doing other things, but the people who are coming in to buy are simply not there," he told The AM Show on Thursday.
"A lot of it is to do with rental property owners being vilified in the last couple of years, but also a lot of the cost increases have gone in there, and it's just making it harder and harder to be able to provide rental properties, and so they're just not there for these poor tenants."
Mr King didn't explain what happens to properties landlords want to drop from their portfolios but can't find buyers for.
He said new rules and proposed changes around deposits, depreciation and the ring-fencing of tax losses are discouraging new builds. But the latest figures from Statistics NZ show building consents for new homes in Auckland are at a 15-year high, and across New Zealand are at their highest level in 13 years.
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Mr King says recent moves to assist first-home buyers have negatively impacted renters.
"The general population needs to understand how rental property is provided, why it is important and we actually need more of it. In the past couple of years, we've been looking at first-home buyers and thinking they're in competition with rental property owners, and therefore we need to get rid of rental property owners, but that hurts tenants ultimately."
'The rents were going to go up anyway'
Mr King also defended landlords' recent hiking of rents for students, following a $50-a-week boost to student allowances.
The Union of Students' Association has had reports of rents being hiked in Wellington.
"We have heard reports particularly here in Wellington that some landlords are taking the opportunity to increase rents because of that $50 increase," president Jonathan Gee told Newshub earlier this month.
"We're at the whim of landlords at this stage because of the housing crisis, because there's limited supply and because there's so many people looking for rental properties."
Mr King said rents were going to rise anyway, and landlords won't be making money from the hikes.
"This at least helps students to be able to afford decent accommodation. We don't pocket it - there's so many cost increases. The cost increases are actually higher than that amount of money."
He said anyone who feels their landlord has hiked their rent an unfair amount can take their concerns to the Tenancy Tribunal.
By the numbers, according to Trade Me
- Rents in Wellington are up $30, and expected to go higher as the academic year begins.
- The number of available places has halved in a year across the country.
- In Auckland, availability is down 35 percent.
- Weekly median rent nationwide is up to $460 - in Auckland it's $530, and expected to rise.
- Rents rose everywhere in the country last year, except Taranaki and the West Coast.
- Hikes were highest in Northland and Marlborough, followed by Nelson.
- Rents for one- and two-bedroom places are up to a median of $380 a week, and large houses - five-bedrooms or more - up to $1100.