Desperate times, desperate tenants in Tauranga housing shortfall

The 'No Vacancy' sign has been put up in Tauranga.

The median weekly rent in the city hit a record $525 this April - that's around three-quarters of the median income.

Property managers there estimate the city is short around 1000 rental properties, and the ones that are there are skyrocketing in price.

Trade Me's statistics reflect a classic supply and demand issue. In March, listings were down 13 percent and enquiries soared by 75 percent. In April they were down 24 percent while enquiries were up 44 percent.

Tauranga does have plenty of jobs though, thanks to the orchard industry and the ever-expanding port. But Mayor Greg Brownless has a warning: don't move to his city, regardless of what the job is, unless you've got a home locked in.

Because this is an issue no longer affecting only low socio-economic families, but everyone.

Chasing the dream


Tauranga is the heart of the Bay of Plenty, but when it comes to its housing, plenty is not a word anyone is using.

"We're all just trying to chase a place to live," one family told Newshub.

On average 2500 people have moved to Tauranga each year for the past five years, meaning the population's grown by 15,000 people.

And in the next four years Stats NZ projects it could increase by a further 17,000.

Mayor Brownless says the city can't keep up with its own growth, and the rental shortage is only going to get worse as more people move in.

"What are they gonna do, suddenly develop a conscience and not come here? I don't think so," he says.

No pets, no kids, no hope


Carrie Matkovich's landlord was among those to move from Auckland to Tauranga. That left her without a home and forced her back into the rental rat race.

"I went to 103 viewings in 31 days," she says.

The home she finally secured is $200 over her budget and meant moving her children to a new school. It's a common consequence of the rental crunch.

The quantity and quality of applicants mean even the perfect prospective tenant is missing out.

"I've had a mum ring me last week, two kids, she works, good income, good job, good references, and she'll be moving into a car next week if she doesn't find a house," says property manager Genna Short.

Short says landlords are so spoilt for choice they can be extremely picky. Some are requesting not only 'no pets', but 'no children' either.

The 'no kids' policy has locked the Humphry family out of the rental market for a year.

With a baby girl and one on the way, they currently pay $320 a week for a small one bedroom unit.

It's a far cry from the life they lived in Sydney where they had been saving double what they can here.

"Why did we come back, really, we can't afford to get ahead, we're trapped," Kim Humphry says.

Their solution is to move an hour south to Rotorua, but Trade Me listings suggest they're not alone. Listings in Rotorua are down 5 percent while enquiries from prospective tenants are up 47 percent.

"It's Auckland to Tauranga, Tauranga to Rotorua, Rotorua to where?" her partner Zane asks

"It's just gonna keep on going, and never stop."

Desperate times


Renters here are desperate, and now in some cases that desperation is being taken advantage of.

Just this week a woman appeared in Tauranga District Court charged with deception, having allegedly scammed multiple families into paying thousands up front to secure the same rental.

She then allegedly took off with the money, leaving the families out of pocket and without a house.

"When you get the phone call saying it's yours, you get this overwhelming like 'oh my God I've got a house', and then to find out for 10 weeks she's been lying through her teeth," scam victim Toni told Newshub.

Toni says the scam and constant fight to secure a home has left her mental health suffering.

"I'm not the only one, you feel like you are the only one, but you're not. But it's just, how can people do that to you?"

A bleak future


Unfortunately, there's only going to be more competition with Waikato University's new campus opening in central Tauranga.

"There's 600 to 800 new students going in there and we haven't allowed for any accommodation for them," rental agent Dan Lusby says.

The Bay of Plenty's poster city for opportunity is overflowing and overwhelmed.

The Government's answer to the crisis? Just 25 KiwiBuild homes.