SocietySeptember 28, 2022

I pay $252 a week in rent – this is how I live


The first in this week’s series of true renting tales comes from a Wellington student. 

I’m a 21-year-old student and this is my third year renting in Wellington. Alongside my five flatmates, I pay $252 in rent. This excludes an extra $20 a week in expenses for electricity, internet and a stockpile of shared flat goods. Although I work while studying, rent makes up more than 30% of my weekly income.

The house is one of Wellington’s classic uninsulated heritage villas and we occupy two out of three levels. It’s definitely a student flat. The focus is on functionality with parking, two bathrooms, a dishwasher and rooms ranging in size from medium to extremely large. The layout is deeply random – one bedroom has a separate entrance without internal access to the house, despite being part of the same building.

The main communal area is a small kitchen that doubles as a lounge. It has big sunny windows, wooden floorboards and high ceilings. We’ve decorated it with posters of our favourite bands (The Beths, Lorde) cheekily borrowed from the street, and there’s always someone having a cuppa. It’s a very joy-filled space, but it gets cramped quickly when friends are over or multiple flatmates attempt to cook simultaneously. People at parties tell us they have fun hanging out here, but probably wouldn’t live here.

Our landlord is vague but generally not negligent. He’s a mysterious man who once won in court representing himself against the Wellington City Council over a parking ticket. Repairs never take less than a week and tradies inevitably turn up three business days after we’re told to expect them. Mostly this is OK, but when our dryer completely died in mid-July, it became very frustrating very quickly. Things eventually get sorted and he’s fairly responsive to feedback – this year he filled in the old holes in the walls and installed our first ever heat pump!

Despite the house’s oddities, the location is perfect. A 10-minute walk lands me on Lambton Quay, where the nearest supermarket is, or at either of Victoria University of Wellington’s major campuses. The botanic gardens are across the road and have preserved flat harmony through multiple Covid lockdowns. Lots of students live close by, so the area feels safe when walking home after a late night hospo shift and there are always mates within close reach.

Wellington Botanic Garden: A sanctuary across the road from a sometimes crowded flat. (Photo: Getty Images)

Long-term, buying a house would be easier, but isn’t remotely within my realm of  possibility unless the market drops significantly. This doesn’t seem likely, and I probably won’t stay in Aotearoa as a result.  

The end of the uni year is approaching. Every summer we scramble once Studylink payments finish. Handling any changeover in flatmates becomes incredibly stressful if leases don’t line up perfectly and the overall market means moving is a huge risk. Spending months hustling through dozens of viewings, getting constantly rejected and potentially ending up somewhere worse is a real prospect. Since moving here at the end of 2019, I’ve done everything possible to avoid flat hunting in Wellington.

The house is dry, mostly warm and I love my flatmates a lot. Rent is on the upper end of the spectrum but is meetable. There are definitely plenty of people paying more for less. A world with a variety of rental options, where landlords hold less power, and housing is affordable for all would be amazing. Given the absolute state of our housing market, I feel extremely lucky to have a stable and comfortable living situation, and want better for us all. 

Rent Week 2022 runs until  October 2. Read the best of our renting coverage here.

Keep going!