Queenstown's housing crisis threatens critical workforces

A nationwide softening in the housing market hasn't affected Queenstown's housing shortage.

Many people live in cars and tents and seasonal workers are often crammed into overcrowded rentals.

But it's also affecting critical workforces, like teachers.

Queenstown teacher Jonny Davies and his partner have spent years trying to buy a home.

"If we came into a large amount of money or family or someone to help us but I don't actually we'd be able to afford anything really," he told Newshub.

The couple, who are renting in Arrowtown, now have a two-week-old baby.

"We'd like somewhere permanent so it has become stressful and I know for a lot of other families in the community it's stressful as well," Davis said.

The Lakes Community Housing Trust is trying to help both those looking for rentals or to buy.

"It's pretty disturbing, a lot of households are actually officially homeless under the definition of homelessness from the Government, living in all sorts of conditions, some living in tents out in DoC camping grounds about 12 miles out of town," said the trust's CEO Julie Scott.

Or sleeping in cars or garages.

"We've got 1250 eligible households on our waiting lists today, so that's people living and working in the Queenstown Lakes area," Scott said.

Some of their funding comes from developers in the town, who are required to make a contribution to the trust when rezoning land.

"To date we've probably received close to $50 million in land and cash from developers across the district through this process," Scott added.

The likes of Airbnb has put enormous pressure on the long-term rental market because income on short-term rentals can be much higher.

"Our local council actually tried to step in and enforce action and restrict Airbnb in this district. It ended up in the environment court and our council lost, so it does require central Government legislation," Scott said.

Buying too has become impossible for many.

"So for first home prices, the median house price in the district is currently about $1.7 million," Scott added.

"A 20 percent deposit is unachievable and even a 5 percent deposit in this region is still a lot of money," Davis said.

It means the likes of teachers and others on median incomes are hard to retain in the district.

"I absolutely love working at my school, my school is excellent and I would be really really upset if I have to leave because of my housing situation. I just don't think that's how it should be," Davis said.

But like many others, Davies realises his dream of owning a home here, may have to go up in smoke.