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Rental crisis deepens as Mt Cook flat viewing attracts more than 40 people

Wellington's rental squeeze is showing no sign of abating, with 40 would-be tenants descending to a flat viewing in inner-city Mt Cook on Wednesday morning.

Richard Horne, director of managemyproperty, which is letting the three-bedroom plus sleepout flat, said the scene resembled a "street party".

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But he added that it was nothing new in the current market, where places were snapped up "in the blink of an eye".

The flat was listed on Monday, and hopeful renters turned out in force.

The high number of people at the viewing shouldn't come as too much of a surprise though, as it was revealed on Tuesday that the city has been unable to build houses quickly enough to keep pace with its population growth.

Wellington is currently 3590 dwellings short of what it needs.

The figures obtained from the Wellington City Council show that, in nine of the past 13 financial years, the number of dwellings built in the capital fell short of the estimated number required.

The result is multiple tenants packing into rooms and a rise in homelessness, the head of the city's housing taskforce says.

But while some are resorting to desperate measures, the tenants at Monday's viewing preferred taking a traditional approach and were armed with references - a vital accessory in securing a flat.

A battery of background checks is now standard in choosing who gets a rental – including credit, background and employment checks, as well as Tenancy Tribunal histories and tenancy track records taken from no fewer than 14 databases.

Horne said property managers had a duty to landlords to pick the best tenants, which was why the checks were so rigorous.

Last month Trade Me figures showed rents in the capital topping the $500 median for the first time, with rents around the Wellington region not far behind.

Horne said rents had been static in Wellington for about four years, and the current rental drought was probably just a peak in the property cycle, last seen in around 2005.

The shortage was driven by a lack of available properties, fewer investors buying rentals, first-home buyers buying rentals, loan-to-value restrictions, and baby boomer landlords selling off rental properties in a hot market.
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