Some lessons from Germany and my former driving instructor Kat
A must read. Terrifying stuff. https://thespinoff.co.nz/politics/18-09-2023/nationals-no-cause-eviction-policy-would-hurt-everyone-including-landlords
When I was a kid, our family were one of the few who rented. Our first two moves were moving to something bigger, 2 to 3 bedrooms, and then 3 to 3+ a study. We had to leave the 3rd home because it was being sold. Our 4th home was smaller than the third, but it had a nice big back yard. Then, within a year the landlord subdivided. No more backyard, and the construction of the new house messed up some wiring in ours so some outlets and lights never worked again and were never fixed. Then we were kicked out within a short timeframe and couldn’t find anything in time and lived with my grandad in his tiny 2 bedroom home. All of these houses were cold and damp, and we weren’t allowed to change anything. The last house I lived in with my parents was no different. I moved out of home, and within the next five years, that house and two after it were all sold. During that time my parents had separated, and after the last house sold my Mum couldn’t find somewhere that was willing to rent to a single mother with 4 children at home. So they moved back to my grandads and rented a caravan. I noticed that my experience renting as young professional couple was markedly different to that of my young parents with several children who didn’t earn much. From the late 90s they were prevented from living in any of the nice rentals and forced to accept the worst ones that were consistently sold out from underneath them. I sometimes wonder what that level of stress and insecurity has done to their health and the length of their lifespans.
What concerns me is that if a person can't be reasonably sure of living in the same home for several years, or of being being able to move around in the same community, should they need to move, then why would they invest in that community? Join clubs, fundraise, establish a vege garden, get to know the neighbours, take pride in public facilities like playgrounds etc. If you have to keep moving around, you might have to keep moving the kids to different schools, and that's disruptive to _their_ community formation and to your support networks. What is the social impact of that?
My husband is from Denmark and it sounds quite similar to what I have seen of renting there. Renting is culturally normalised as a housing option - it is not a “second class” choice or looked down on in any way and everyone views rentals as a tenants home. It does mean tenancy agreements are generally longer but I’d take that trade off any time for what it gives in terms of culture, security and housing quality
The other thing that annoys me is that we've been trying to save up for a house forever, even though they're stupidly expensive and every time we edge our way even slightly closer they get even more stupidly expensive and then we're somehow even further away. I don't even bloody care about owning a house that much! It's all stolen land ffs! It just feels like the only way to not have that perpetual anxious hum in your head about being forced to move on someone else's whim. Just give me a super stable, super long term lease on a warm, dry house, let me pay my rent to local iwi instead of yet another Rich White Dude Who Owns a Lot of Things™️, and I'd probably live happily ever after.
Exactly! This is such an important discussion right now. I also lived in a rental as a kid, admittedly only for three years. But that family now, with two boys, a cat and a dog, might struggle to even get somewhere to rent. It's shocking when you suddenly see the ways the world has gotten shittier in one's own lifetime.
I've been calling and door-knocking as part of the election campaign and I've lost count of the number of people 18-35 I've talked with who are trapped in often outrageous rental conditions and not seeing any prospect out of getting out of it. I'm surprised they aren't angrier to be honest. One group of flatmates told me their landlord describes himself as a "hobbyist", but confessed to them he'd become a bit addicted and now ended up with 24 earthquake damaged houses he was renting out "as is". All kinds of wrong.
I've bounced around from tenant to property owner to landlord and at the same time tenant in a different city then back to owning the home I lived in and not being a landlord. I can confirm from personal experience that useless landlords and damp mouldy rentals have been around for decades, but it's very much my impression that things have got a lot worse. And the prices are now insane. I just feel so sad about the situation with housing here. It's just gone so wrong.
Simplicity Kiwisaver is building life time rentals like the European model. They have already completed some blocks in Auckland. They are designed like communities for people to meet on the stairs and share some facilities, and they are near transport hubs and villages as well so are not isolated.
I love the ‘don’t email me’ disclaimer. So many landlords think they’re good because they take *just less* than all of their tenants’ disposable income 😞
Our previous landlords actually seemed ok -- at least, I thought they did. We lived in that house for six years. It wasn't home enough to repaint walls or anything, but it felt stable, you know?
Then, in 2021, they served us 90 days notice so they could sell. It was the middle of winter and the rental market was slow. Our parents were just down the road, we had kids at local schools, a non-driving parent, a cat. It was so hard to find anything remotely suitable. We kept dropping things from our list of requirements, getting smaller and smaller, further and further from schools and family. All our applications were unsuccessful.
Halfway through the notice, delta hit. We asked if the 90 days could be put on hold for lockdown. The landlords said no. They had a "timeframe they wanted to sell the house by", apparently. So we spent Auckland's 107 day lockdown house hunting and, eventually, moving. Our families were only able to provide limited help because of lockdown. So we packed up a house and juggled work and childcare almost entirely on our own. I barely slept for weeks.
I don't know what the landlords' deal was. Maybe something shitty happened in their whanau and they urgently needed the money, who knows. I hope it was urgent, whatever it was. We were group 4, lowest priority for covid vaccinations. We risked dying of covid in order to move house on their timeframe.
Our current house is good and our landlords seem nice. But then, our previous landlords seemed nice too. I keep track of the rentals on trademe property all the time, just in case. You never know when the next search will begin.
Housing in NZ is just remarkably poor, the fact that being cold and damp inside is just normal is so crazy to any international visitors I meet. A friend moved to Sweden and was like there's snow outside and I'm in a t shirt inside. Unimaginable! Rent is still expensive there and can be hard to find in the most desirable places but it seems much more secure and stable there. I feel lucky to have been able to buy a house (with family help) because flatting was getting seriously old and even renting a 1br apartment was so outrageously expensive.
I had the pleasure of living and renting in Berlin for 5 years, coming home has been a culture shock from hell, like no other.
I very much relate to the experiences of Kat, and miss my gorgeous rental space in Germany everyday.
I have no desire to own my own home, "owning" is not important to me , I don't want to climb ladders or level up or anything like that. I do want to know I can live in the same house and not have to move at the drop of a hat, I want security warmth and no mould.
Compared to Wellington, Berlin is endlessly colder, the winter months stretch on and on , but I can say confidently I never ONCE felt cold inside my own home.
I'm desperate to own my own home for the simple fact I want to give my kid the security of not having to change schools during primary school years, or enrol in school and plan for my life over the next 5 years. Depressing . I did not dream of raising my kid this way...
Agree with all the things. Finding it interesting how the end of naenae Substack tonight is about Aotearoa and our approach to regulation, and yours is exploring differences which are (a lot but not completely) to do with a lack of regulation. When my sister lived in Germany for a few years she had to install a kitchen in her rental flat as she said the renters owned the kitchen and all took their kitchens with them if and when they headed to the next rental - in line with the “it’s your home”! When she left (and was moving back to the UK) it was quite the palaver telling the landlord she would really like to leave the kitchen in place!
I guess renters here could organise to some good effect. But it would be very limited without the kind of regulatory framework that Kat describes. If we want to develop a mature rental culture, we need to get over our resentment of rules and regulations, create a humane regime and enforce it. Would be wonderful if it were otherwise, but people pursuing profits will do what they can get away with.
Having lived in a variety of rentals in Berlin for 5 years, and many here in Aotearoa, the difference is shocking. As many have mentioned, the double glazing of windows and heating in every room in Germany is the norm, and rent is generally much cheaper than in NZ. I remember my flatmate in Germany making a complaint to the landlord when he noticed the tiniest bit of condensation in the corner of one of his bedroom windows during a winter when overnight lows were regularly -13 degrees! He couldn’t believe it when I told him that in NZ we would regularly have condensation covering entire windows and pooling over the windowsill every night, and not just in the winter.
Those protections Kat talks about would be wonderful,been in our rental 10 years but everytime there's any contact from the managers it's the worry is this it we're out now