'Really frustrating': Kiwi tenants struggle to land rental homes as March Madness sets in early

While the new Healthy Homes standards will make living conditions better for renters, the competition to get into a rental home is already red-hot.

Frustration's brewing among students and young professionals as rental prices skyrocket in Auckland and in Wellington.

The busy period known as 'March Madness' is already in full swing as universities start back up, and as major centres grapple with a lack of affordable housing.

For 21-year-old prospective tenant Sara O'Dwyer, finding a new flat in Auckland's crowded market has been a bit of a nightmare.

"It's really frustrating; we already have our flatmates moving out, and now they keep hounding us and we have no answer for them because we have no answer from finding a new place!" she says.

Ms O'Dyer and a friend have applied for around 15 flats so far, but they keep losing out.

"I've applied to quite a few on the Trade Me website and real estate online, and I apply for a viewing and I just don't hear back," she says. "I think it is about the timing right now."

Ms O'Dwyer isn't alone during what's termed 'March Madness'. That's the time when students are looking for homes, and many rental leases are expiring.

And if you're out there hoping for some good news, well, there isn't.

"It is becoming more expensive," says Trade Me Property head of rentals Aaron Clancy. "We expect February and March to be at all-time highs."

Right now, the average rental in Wellington is costing $595 per week. That's up 8.2 percent compared to this time last year.

Meanwhile, Aucklanders are forking out $555 a week on average. That's up almost 3 percent.

Trade Me's Aaron Clancy says students are to blame for the squeeze, and a lack of rental stock.

"Until we start getting more supply into the market, we're going to see tenants struggling to get into a property," he says.

And those prospective tenants aren't just students. While it's proving difficult for young people to find accommodation at this time of year, it's also an increasing problem for older New Zealanders too.

"What we're seeing is a rapid increase in the numbers of older people needing rented accommodation, on superannuation alone, struggling to make ends meet," says Kevin Lamb, CEO of Age Concern Auckland.

So while housing stock remains low, demands is set to stay high - keeping tenants young and old, squeezed out.


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