Concern many in Central Otago priced out

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MATT.TSO
@thenews.co.nz

An Alexandra real estate agent says increasing house prices and rents in parts of Central Otago could discourage people from settling in the region.

LJ Hooker principal Elaine Schuck said demand for housing all over the region was increasing as buyers looked outside the Wanaka and Queenstown markets.

Much of the lower cost housing stock was being bought up and long term rental properties were being bought as homes, she said.

Real Estate Institute of New Zealand figures show the median sale price of houses in the Central Otago Lakes region increased 30% between February 2016 and February 2017, from $566,111 to $725,000, the largest increase in the country.

Mrs Schuck said Otago’s relatively low individual income levels would mean many could become priced out of the area, particularly young people and those on low incomes.

The 2013 census showed Otago had the second-lowest individual incomes in the South Island, with a median personal income of $26,300.

Mrs Schuck said houses and rentals were being snapped up and employers had contacted her over new staff struggling to find accommodation.

She said the lack of rentals and affordable housing could discourage those thinking about settling in Central Otago and could push out others.

“If they can’t find a rental or an affordable place to buy, then they are going to [look at living elsewhere].”

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan said statistics showed more people were arriving than leaving but he had heard of people leaving Central Otago due to increasing house prices and rents.

“We can’t help but hear from people in our community that people are struggling [to find accommodation].”

He said it was concerning if people were being forced out of Central Otago because they could not afford to live there.

“I don’t want Central Otago to become a playground for the rich and where the average person can’t afford to live.”

He said of particular concern was the ability of young people to afford a home in Central Otago.

The Central Otago District Council was investigating creating a housing trust within the region modelled on the Queenstown Community Housing Trust, which was established to attract people to Queenstown by providing rental properties and assisting people into their first homes through starter loans and a shared ownership programme.