Motels are the new Kiwibuild houses

by Christie on June 5, 2019 at 8:30am

The lack of rental accommodation is reaching a crisis point. This government has driven so many landlords out of the market that there is nowhere to rent. I have heard stories about 70 people turning up every time a rental becomes available in Blenheim, and there are similar stories told in Lower Hutt. Tauranga has recently reached a particular crisis point, where there is simply nowhere to go.

Did you hear that, Jacinda?

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.

Even people with good incomes and good references cannot find rental accommodation in Tauranga. There are simply no houses available to rent.

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.


Is this how we solve child poverty, Jacinda? Rental properties that do not allow children?

Seeing that Phil Twyford’s latest proposal for tenants is that they should be allowed pets, regardless of what the landlord thinks, this is an interesting development. Do you think the government will stop being silly about this now, and stop driving landlords out of the rental market?

No, They won’t. Here is their solution.

Motels are increasingly being used as emergency accommodation for the homeless and now the Government is looking at buying more around the country, in areas like Hawke’s Bay, Northland, Wellington and Marlborough.

Not Tauranga. But then, Tauranga motel owners probably get plenty of tourists, and can be much more choosy about who they rent their units out to.

A South Auckland block of units is one of seven former motels the Government – both past and present – has bought for a total of more than $14 million dollars spread around the country.

The Government buys the sites and then pays community organisations like the Monte Cecilia Trust to manage them and provide services to those in need.

“The success is measured in families not having to live in cars, leaky garages or on park benches,” Monte Cecelia Trust’s Bernie Smith told 1 NEWS.

This may be better than sleeping under a bridge, but it is no long term solution. If the Tauranga situation is anything to go by, some of these people will be in motels for months, if not years.

We all know what motels are like. The units are mostly very small, and even the more spacious units are scant accommodation for more than a night or two. I stayed in a motel in Taupo last year where I had to hold back the kitchen door to open the fridge. Living like that will drive people crazy fairly fast, particularly if they have children.

There are more than 11,000 people on the state housing waiting list and just under 2700 were placed in transitional housing in the last quarter.

The Government agrees that transitional housing has been an effective method but there are big concerns about increasing use of commercial motels for emergency accommodation.

“My preference would absolutely be that we did not have people in motels, but if the alternative is that they are in their cars, or sleeping rough, or no accommodation at all, it is much better than the alternative,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.


The alternative, Jacinda, was 10,000 new houses built every year for 10 years, as your government promised. Apparently, 18 months in, you have just broken the 100 mark, with 102 houses now completed. Wow. Only 99,898 to go… in 8.5 years.

Buying motels was never on the agenda.

I guess you could argue that this move makes sense. It is better to own motels rather than paying a small fortune every month paying motel owners to accommodate people, but it is hardly an ideal solution. This is, in fact, the government admitting defeat on the housing issue when, if anyone could solve it, they could.

In the meantime, some motel owners are laughing all the way to the bank. Motels are not the favoured holiday accommodation any more, particularly since the advent of AirBnB. Who would have thought that the government would come to the rescue of failing motel owners? It warms the cockles of my heart.

Just make sure you steer clear of these places, though, if you are looking for a place to stay. It pays not to go near them.