Flat-out flat hunting - Life lives here

Trade Me Property helps Kiwis find a place to call home, whether they're buying or renting. 

Right now, many Kiwis are struggling to secure a rental property because of high demand and a lower-than-usual number of properties available. 

We asked Georgia to tell us her story about finding a flat in the capital city. You can see the full written version of her plight below. 

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Flat-out flat hunting - guest post by Georgia from Wellington

As a recent graduate from Victoria University, I started to become aware of how bad the housing crisis was last year when in January 2016 I struggled to find a place to live. After deciding to go off on my own I eventually found a room in a great flat right in the middle of town, but evidently others weren't so lucky.

I started to hear reports of the university hostels overfilling rooms because even in student accommodation there was a shortage of places to stay. To my knowledge this has been partially sorted with the opening of another new Victoria Uni hostel on Willis Street, which is great to hear. However this year I feel like the housing crisis in general has dramatically worsened since this time last year.

After living on the 15th floor of the Soho apartments for the majority of the year I was understandably shaken after the recent earthquake in November, so decided to move in with my partner for the remainder of 2016. We were hoping we would be able to secure the flat he was in for another year and stay there until the end of 2017 when we had planned to travel. However after a lengthy discussion with the landlord this was not to be, and we were left with 10 days to find another place to live before the lease ended. The landlord had decided she wanted new tenants last minute, and after seeing it advertised on trade me a few weeks later had also decided to put the rent up by $100 - another pressing issue students face with housing across the capital.

We took action immediately, setting up viewings and applying for anything that looked promising in advance to give ourselves a better chance. Unfortunately the timing was bad; I had gone home for a week so was unable to attend the first lot of viewings, and my partner and other flat mate were promptly turned away from all of them because I couldn't be there to meet the landlord, or the landlords simply didn't want boys - among other things.

When I got back to Wellington a few days later we set up more viewings, bearing in mind we all work full time and were unable to get to these all at the same time. But we tried our best. I would call landlords prior to viewings and introduce myself, asking if there was anything we could bring along to assist our application. So many seemed promising, but each time we got our hopes up we were declined for one reason or another; we were too young, they wanted people more mature, couldn't get ahold of references etc - despite us being graduates. We seemed to be having an endless bout of bad luck.

We moved out the day before the lease ended, putting everything we had into storage and not knowing what we were going to do for the coming weeks - where we were going to stay or how we would attend viewings. But we didn't give up.

Our friends took us in and let us stay on their spare couch - the place we ended up staying for the next month.

I would leave work on my lunch breaks to attend viewings, or catch a bus after work. We all did our best in the situation that we were in, but were starting to feel hopeless. Working a 9 hour day and coming back to someone else's apartment when you're living out of a bag and sleeping on a couch isn't exactly how we had envisioned the start of 2017, but we tried to make it work. Inevitably though were verging on homeless - and had it not been for the generosity of our friends we would have ended up on the streets. 

We kept going. And eventually we were offered a place, but the next day received more bad news when the landlord had decided to go with another group due to our references being unreliable. 

Our situation became dire, and after two weeks of being on this friends couch we knew we were overstaying so offered to go elsewhere (not actually knowing where we would go). We went to two more viewings that day, the only time in 3 weeks we had been able to all go together. One place was held up by two beams on the side of a hill, smelt damp and cold, and there was obvious mould all over the ceiling in the bathroom - not uncommon to see in a lot of Wellington flats. I wondered how they could get away with charging so much for such a disgusting place.

The next was the best of the flats we had been to so far. We turned up 15 minutes early, with me wearing a bright red dress to try and make a bold impression. We had a look around and it was perfect. We chatted to the landlord, filled out the application, asked questions and told her we loved the place (this was routine by now). But then the people started piling in - older couples, two girls, middle aged professionals. We didn't have a hope in sight. 

After the viewing we went to the pub and had a drink feeling sorry for ourselves. We agreed that if we didn't hear by the next day it was time to regroup and maybe head back to Hawke's Bay (our home town). We went back to our friends and packed our bags for the night ahead, feeling drained. We told them we would go to a hostel - fully expecting at least one of them to be available. We went to uni and sat down going over our options, browsing all the hostels in town. Ironically every room in all of the hostels apart from private rooms that costed over $100 a night were full. We gave up. Our only option was to stay the night at uni. 

Knowing how tragic we were I lugged my bag through the hub and up into McLaurin at Vic Uni and found a little spot in the dark upstairs on a comfy couch away from everyone else. We weren't bothering anyone, and I know plenty of people who have done overnighters at uni (even if it is for assignments), so we thought we would be ok.

But security promptly kicked us out after an hour. After a sleepless night and feeling defeated, I knew we had hit rock bottom.

Watching people come into uni ready to study made me feel pathetic - sitting on the couch with a bag full of clothes and shivering knowing I wouldn't be able to even shower before work in an hours’ time.

I walked over to the computers and regretfully wrote out my resignation - effective immediately. I called my mum in tears, and was ready to book my bus home.

Then I received a missed call from an unknown number. Next thing I know my flatmate was on the phone to someone grinning from ear to ear. And I knew then that we had finally done it.

He got off the phone and all he said was "we got it".

I couldn't even speak I was in so much shock.  It couldn't have been any more last minute.

I then called her myself and she explained that there were over 50 groups of people that had come to the viewing after us of all ages, but we stood out. (Finally!)
Ideally she was wanting an older couple on their own (surprise surprise), but we made the cut. Our move-in would be 11 of March.

One month and 1 week after moving out of our original flat we have now moved into our own place as of last weekend. I had to take a week off work to go home and have a proper bed to sleep in and decent food to eat. It takes a toll on your mental health having to live on someone else's couch and not having a place of your own for such a long time - especially when you're that desperate you have to resort to sleeping at uni so you don't have to be on the street.

I am incredibly grateful we found a place, but I know so many others are still in the awful position we were in only a week ago with nowhere to go.

Something needs to be done urgently about the housing crises in Wellington, and in fact all over New Zealand. And it needs to be made a priority.

Students, graduates and citizens alike should not be having to resort to staying nights at university or sleeping on people's couches for extended periods of time. In most circumstances it is taking months at a time for people to even secure a place.

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Thanks to Georgia for sharing her story with us, and for everyone who shared their story over on our Facebook page

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