1 Mar 2017

Otago town faces accommodation crisis - mayor

8:00 pm on 1 March 2017

The Otago town of Cromwell needs an affordable housing scheme to help deal with an emerging accommodation crisis, the region's mayor says.

Social agencies and accommodation providers describe a shortage of rental accommodation in the town as a "crisis", as families sleep in caravans, tents and garages to survive.

Cromwell has a population of 4500 people and dozens of jobs on offer, but hardly anything for rent.

The town has experienced a boom because of its proximity to Queenstown, lifestyle and the rapid growth of short-term rentals.

Average house prices in the town have jumped to $500,000.

RNZ found nine properties listed for rent online today. Of those, four properties cost less than $500 per week. The cheapest was $380 dollars per week.

Central Otago mayor Tim Cadogan

Central Otago mayor Tim Cadogan Photo: Supplied

Central Otago Budgeting Services co-ordinator Pam Hughes said the boom might be good for some, but there were no affordable houses for her clients and it had reached a crisis point.

"To me, a rental crisis is when there are no homes to rent and ... people [need] homes," Ms Hughes said.

Some rental homes were not advertised, she said.

"A lot of people ... are waiting for the person to move out before someone moves in, so they are already taken."

At nearby Bannockburn, Cairnmuir Motor Camp manager Martine McDowell said they had about 15 people living there who moved to Cromwell, but could not find a house to rent.

She said they were not all low-income people.

Some were single parents with children, others were families where both parents worked.

"I've heard of a father and a son living in a caravan on someone's property, I've heard of a mother and three little kids living in a tent in her parents' back yard," Ms McDowell said.

"It's not too far away until winter. Where are these people going to go?"

Town booming, will some get left behind?

Central Otago's new mayor, Tim Cadogan, said he was concerned by the "serious accommodation shortage".

"There's just a lot of people coming in here," said Mr Cadogan.

"Everyone is saying, 'Boy, the place is booming' ... but of course when you have a boom, there's a risk of people being left behind.

"How do people get into the housing market, how do the young ones get established here?"

Mr Cadogan said the council would need to help create a scheme like Queenstown's community housing trust, which successfully housed 100 families in 10 years. He said he would lead it.

Glenn Christiansen, the manager of Cromwell's The Gate and Harvest Hotel, said he would back the mayor.

Mr Christiansen said no-one in Cromwell would deny an affordable housing scheme needed to happen, because the town was on the brink of a crisis.

"It needs to be looked into now. We might survive another year of tight rents, but if we continue the way we are, that's the end of it I would say, it would be too tight from there."

It emerged today Housing New Zealand (HNZ) had two vacant homes in Cromwell, which had not been used for three and eight months.

HNZ said demand for state housing was low in the town. If that continued, the properties might be sold.

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