Housing crisis: Price for rentals hits new all-time high

The median asking price for a rental increased 6 percent in the year to March, new data from Trade Me shows.

It's the highest year-on-year increase since 2018, and the figure - $540 a week - is the equal-highest on record.

"We're not seeing any let-up in the foreseeable future either - demand is high and supply isn't keeping up," said Trade Me property sales director Gavin Lloyd. "Chances are the record high national rent price will be broken in the near future."

Every region saw its median weekly rent increase in the past year. Hawke's Bay led the way, asking prices rising 13.8 percent to $535 - an all-time high. 

"Close behind were the year-on-year increases seen in Taranaki (12.5 percent) at $450 and Manawatu/Whanganui (10 percent) at $440," said Lloyd.

Rising prices are being driven by a 28 percent increase in demand, well ahead of the 17 percent increase in supply. 

"After two consecutive months of supply outweighing demand, we saw the tables turn in March, with demand once again overtaking supply and putting pressure on the market, causing rental prices to climb."

The exception is central Auckland, where growing supply has pushed the median rent down 3 percent to $560. The last time the year-on-year figure went up was May 2020. North Shore remains the super city's most expensive suburb at $635, followed by Rodney on $625 and Manukau on $600. 

Wellington's rents went up 5 percent, the Trade Me data shows, to $590. Unlike Auckland, it's more expensive to live centrally in the capital - Wellington City rents an average $600 a week - unless you're in Porirua, the region's most expensive centre at $650. 

If you're looking to relocate to a smaller place, don't expect to save too much money - one- and two-bedroom places hit a new high of $465 in March. Medium and large places also went up too, by 5.3 percent.

Gisborne is the only region where demand for rentals hasn't increased. 

Behind the rising figure

Trade Me's figure of 6 percent is almost twice as high as the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and Statistics NZ's annual figure for March - the Government agencies reporting a 3.1 percent year-on-year increase in March going by the 'flow' measure, which tracks new bonds placed by landlords and property managers. 

Trade Me's figure counts all properties listed for rent, and includes those that don't get taken up - for example, if they're too expensive. The Government's data only tracks rents that are actually paid.

"Trade Me's data refers to properties 'asking' price rather than the agreed price, meaning Trade Me data includes rentals with asking rents that have not yet been rented out," according to Tenancy Services. 

Trade Me's 6 percent figure is also well above the Government's 'stock' measure, which includes all rentals - including existing tenancies, whose rents might not have increased in a while. That's only up 1.6 percent.

Both Trade Me and the Government's data agree on one thing however - nationwide, rents are at all-time highs, up somewhere between 20 and 25 percent since Labour came to power in 2017. 

The Government last month announced measures to tackle both the supply and demand drivers of the housing shortage, including removing a tax "loophole" which made servicing a mortgage cheaper for investors than owner-occupiers. Landlords and investor groups have argued this will drive up rents. 

The new rules are to be phased in over several years, and were only announced in mid-March, so would have had little to no impact on March's rental figures. 

Rents stagnated in mid-2020 thanks to the COVID-19 rental freeze, but made up the difference almost immediately when they were lifted - Government data showing the stock measure rocketing from $450 to $500 a week in just two months.