PartnersJuly 3, 2024

Renting in Auckland sucks, but it doesn’t have to


New solutions can turn renting from a sickness-inducing experience into a mana-enhancing one. A brand new community exclusively for renters next to Sylvia Park in the vibrant suburb of Mount Wellington aims to usher in a new, better renting experience in our nation’s biggest city. 

Once I left the dry and warm embrace of my parents’ apartment at 19, my first flat was Tāmaki Makaurau-Auckland’s closest thing to a Dunedin student flat. Our flat had a name (The Graft Inn) from its long history of student shenanigans, like Dunedin’s most infamous rentals. We also regularly hosted DnB ragers in our damp, dingy, non-compliant six-bedroom basement. Helping each other clean the constant mould growth behind our beds was considered flat bonding – as was gardening, aka pulling out the microgreens and mushrooms growing from our bathroom walls. 

Unfortunately, renting horror stories like my Graft Inn experience are far too common in Auckland. Natasha Sarkar recalls her shithole of a first flat, another Central Auckland basement where despite her best efforts, like using a dehumidifier or washing the curtains and walls, “you just couldn’t shake the dampness.” It was “before the days of Healthy Homes,” she explains, “so there were no heat pumps, there was no insulation.” As a housewarming gift, Sarkar’s first flat gave her “the 100 day cough”, requiring steroids to cure.

A woman is sitting on a sofa in a bright living room, sipping a drink and reading a book. Next to her is a dog resting comfortably on the couch. A sliding glass door opens to a balcony with outdoor furniture, showing apartment buildings outside.
This woman does not have the 100 day cough, she’s just sipping tea in a nice flat (Photo: Kiwi Property)

Despite her sickness-inducing first flat, Sarkar, now a property consultant, thinks renting in Auckland makes sense. “Renting gives you the flexibility to try different parts of Auckland out that suit your life situation at that point in time,” she outlines. Shelley Jenkin from Kiwi Property agrees. “You can choose to live in the city, in a suburban area with public transport connectivity, or escape to a rural area or even an island if you so wish.”

Sarkar says renters can more easily swap between property sizes and prices. “You might pick something smaller now, perhaps because only one of you is working. Then you might get a pay rise and decide to have a kid and so you say next year we’ll move into a two or three bed unit,” she explains. Jenkin understands how important price is for renters. “With the cost of property in Auckland, renting is a much more affordable option for many people – not only compared to the cost of maintaining a mortgage, but also renting means avoiding expensive extras like rates, body corporate fees, and property maintenance costs.”

Despite both being rental proponents, Jenkin and Sarkar don’t deny that Auckland’s rental market isn’t perfect. One issue they recognise is the uncertainty many renters face. Kiwi Property’s rental survey found that “the barriers that came up most often were the lack of quality rentals, the insecurity people feel about the duration of their lease, and inconsistent rent increases,” says Jenkin. Sarkar adds that finding a suitable property in the first place can also be difficult with increasingly high competition for high-quality rentals. The circuit of rental applications and viewings can quickly become a rigamarole. 

Finding a rental can be problematic, and leaving one can be too. “Packing up the place and cleaning it spotless, and then thinking ‘I have no idea if this landlord is going to come after me for this tiny scratch. Am I going to get my bond back?’ is stressful,” says Sarkar.

While Auckland’s rental market clearly isn’t perfect, it has improved lately, thanks to policies like Auckland’s Unitary Plan and the Healthy Home Standards. “Those standards really highlighted that renters’ basic rights – to warm, dry and safe housing – weren’t being met and that landlords have a responsibility to keep their tenants healthy,” explains Jenkin. Yet, she admits that “those standards are only the bare minimum – renters deserve the same level of comfort and security as any homeowner.” One way to achieve Jenkin’s aspiration is through build-to-rent accommodation, which she says “evens the playing field for renters.” Kiwi Property’s latest development, Resido, is a build-to-rent community next to Sylvia Park shopping centre in Mount Wellington.

Three friends are sitting around a table in a cozy living room, playing a card game and enjoying drinks. The room has modern decor with framed artwork on the walls and a large plant in the corner.
The interior of one of Resido’s apartments (Photo: Kiwi Property)

 Jenkin explains the build-to-rent model as “accommodation designed and built specifically for the needs of renters. The buildings within the development are all owned and managed by a corporate landlord who understands the needs of tenants. The homes are occupied by renters rather than owners, so everyone is in the same boat. One of the best parts of the build-to-rent model is the security that the tenants have, knowing that they can stay long-term without their home being sold out from under them, so they can really put down roots and feel like part of the community.”

Resido, which recently opened its doors, is walking distance from Sylvia Park’s amenities, shops, bus interchange and train station and has an onsite management team. They not only look after the 295 apartments, but also maintain the co-working space, residents’ lounge, rooftop barbecue and 24/7 gym, all included in the price of rent. 

A modern gym with large windows showing an outdoor courtyard. Three people are using different gym equipment: one is rowing on a machine, another is using a cable machine, and the third is seated, focusing on another piece of equipment.
Resido’s 24/7 gym (Photo: Kiwi Property)

Sarkar adds that residents will be treated much more professionally by Resido’s onsite team than the ad-hoc relationship most renters have with their landlords, including clearer and more transparent communication around the expectations for both parties. For engaging in that professional relationship, Resido residents are rewarded with amenities and freedoms other renters don’t receive –  “this includes the ability for residents to bring pets, paint walls and really make it their own,” says Jenkin – alongside the opportunity to get out of the 12-month lease rat race. 

But Resido residents won’t be forced to stay either. “I said being flexible is amazing for a renter,” notes Sarkar, “Well they still have that flexibility. They can still finish their lease off and go buy or rent elsewhere – but if they want to stay, they can.” Residents will also be provided the opportunity to change units as their needs change or their whānau grows. The opportunity to upsize, while staying put, will help families nourish deeper community connections. “If I’m a family with one kid starting primary school here, I can stay here for six years and see them through school,” says Sarkar.

A group of six people socializing on a rooftop terrace. Three are sitting on a couch with drinks, while the other three are standing and talking near an outdoor kitchen area. The background shows a scenic view of a cityscape.
Resido’s rooftop (Photo: Kiwi Property)

All in all, “the build-to-rent model is a great solution to give renters the security they need to put down roots and be part of a community,” explains Jenkin. Sarkar adds that because it’s a brand new build, no Resido resident will have a sickness-inducing experience like she had at her first flat. “At Resido,” says Jenkin, “we want all our residents to feel that renting is a safe, secure, stress-free and convenient option for them, with all the work done by our on-site resident services team. We also want our residents to feel truly at home, which is why they can paint walls, hang pictures on the walls, and have pets.”

“The average landlord which crudely is probably a mum and dad their situation and the inherent way that they manage real estate isn’t going to take the same leap,” Sarkar says, because mum and dad landlords generally can’t commit as much time and resource to a rental property as commercial landlords can. As a result, they often allow tenants less freedom and room for personalisation. Even so, renters deserve the leap in quality of life and dignity that comes with a warm, dry and homely whare and the security of knowing they won’t be unexpectedly kicked out.

“We’re spending so much of our income on rent,” says Sarkar. “We should have every right to feel at home and know that we can stay there for as long as we like and make it comfortable and not just feel like you’re tiptoeing around someone else’s space.”