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Rent prices in Wellington are continuing to rise, with a 1.3 per cent increase over the last year, according to Trade Me.
The property website’s Rent Price Index shows that as of April this year, an average Wellington rental property now costs tenants $395 per week.
A study by the NZUSA gives the average rent prices for students living in Wellington at around $195 per week, much higher than the national average of $125.
The Wellington City Council estimates rent in Wellington costs between $90 and $245 per week, depending on the area and size of the property.
Victoria University recommends that International Students be prepared to pay $180 per week.
The University of Otago estimates the average rent for a flat within 15 minutes’ walk from campus is $118, while the University of Canterbury estimates $159 per week for a flat near campus.
However, student living costs from StudyLink only increase according to the government’s Annual General Adjustment of 0.51 per cent per year. The student accommodation supplement is also capped at $40 per week, and has been since 2001. Presently, the student loan living costs sit at $176.86 per week, with the student allowance at $210.13.
VUWSA President Rick Zwaan attributed rising rents along with a lack of Government support as key factors in “exacerbating Vic students’ poor levels of mental wellbeing”.
Jack, a Vic law student living in Aro Valley, says high rent prices in Wellington are unfair compared with the rest of the country. “Some universities, like Vic, are in a sense less student friendly, because we all [New Zealand university students] get the same coin, but that doesn’t reflect having the same cost of living.”
VUWSA was unsure as to how students were supposed to make up the difference between their income and rent. “We know that students are working more hours if they can find part time jobs and going into overdraft to simply pay basic bills. Other students are being forced to live in the crappiest flats in Wellington to get something vaguely ‘affordable’,” Zwaan said.
In a bid to improve housing quality throughout New Zealand, Wellington City Council is one of five councils currently trialing a Rental Warrant of Fitness (WOF) programme. The WOF would assess properties on a pass/fail basis, depending on whether they meet certain criteria for basic service standards. Of all the landlords interviewed as part of the WOF pre-test, 12 per cent said they would put up the rent if rental housing improvements were imposed on them.
VUWSA assured Salient that a WOF programme was “feasible”. “If we have them for cars and new houses then there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have minimum standards for rentals,” Zwaan said. Salient looks for forward to VUWSA’s upcoming endorsement of WOFs for student associations—after all, there is “no reason” not to.