Aucklanders caught between high rent increases and low wage growth - high immigration likely to be a contributing factor

By Greg Ninness

Rents are rising faster than wages in most parts of the country, with the gap widening particularly quickly in Auckland, according to’s inaugural Rental Housing Affordability Report.

This report tracks movements in average rents around the country and compares them with movements in average after tax pay. It will be published quarterly by

It has found that in the 12 months from the second quarter of last year to the second quarter of this year, the national average rent (based on bonds received by Tenancy Services at MBIE*) increased from $404 a week to $422, a rise of $18 a week (+4.3%).

Over the same period, national average take home pay, (Full Time Equivalent, based on Statistics NZ’s Quarterly Employment Survey, with tax and ACC deductions at IRD’s standard rates*) rose from $918 in the second quarter of last year to $936 in the second quarter of this year, also an increase of $18 a week (+1.9%).

That means the average increase in rents has exactly equalled the average increase in take home pay over that period.

But a bigger concern is that rents are increasing at a faster rate than take home pay, with the figures suggesting that in percentage terms, average rents increased at more than twice the pace of average take home pay between the second quarter of last year and the second quarter of this year.

The situation is particularly acute in Auckland, where the average rent increased from $499 a week to $519 a week, up $20 a week (+4%), while average after tax pay rose from just $962 a week to $972 a week over the same period, an increase of just $10 a week (+1%).

So in Auckland, average rents rose at four times the rate of average take home pay, and in dollar terms, the rent rise was double that of average take home pay.

However there were significant variations in rent rises throughout the Auckland region, ranging from a marginal decline of -0.1% in Franklin to a rise of +5.1% in Papakura.

Papakura and the North Shore were the only parts of Auckland where the average increase in rents was below 4%.

Renters in Wellington are also likely to be feeling the pinch.

The average rent in the Wellington Region increased from $424 a week in the second quarter of last year to $452 week in the second quarter of this year, up $28 a week (+6.6%).

Over the same period, average take home pay in the Wellington Region increased from $994 a week to $1017 a week, up $23 a week (+2.3%).

The biggest increase occurred in Lower Hutt where the average rent increased by $49 a week (+14.7%), rising from $330 a week in the second quarter of last year to $379 in the second quarter of this year.

For renters the place to be is Christchurch, which was the only place in the country where the average rent was significantly lower in the second quarter of this year than it was in the second quarter of last year, dropping from $380 a week last year to $362 a week this year (-4.7%).

Over the same period, the average weekly take home pay in Canterbury increased from $899 a week to $914 a week, meaning renters in Canterbury have received the twin benefits of rising pay packets and falling rents.

Average rents were also up strongly in most provincial centres, rising by 11.2% in Queenstown/Lakes, which had most expensive average rent in the country at $575 a week in the second quarter of this year.

There were also strong increases in average rents in Hastings +11.2%, Napier +11.0%, Whanganui +9.9%, Rotorua +9%, Whangarei +8.9% and Dunedin 8.2%.

One point of particular concern in the figures is that while average rents in Auckland are increasing at a similar rate to the national average (4.0% compared to 4.3%), average take home pay in Auckland is only increasing at a little over half the rate of the national average (1.0% compared to 1.9%) and at a much lower rate than average pay in Wellington, Canterbury and areas outside the main centres.

Auckland’s relatively low growth in average net pay could be an unfortunate side effect of the high rates of net migration into the region.

Net migration is running at a record high and is accounting for nearly two thirds of Auckland’s population growth, adding between 40,000 and 45,000 new residents to the city over the last 12 months.

That means migration is the main driver in the demand for more housing which is running well ahead of the rate at which homes are being built.

So migration will undoubtedly be putting upward pressure on rents.

And it may also be contributing to the region’s lower rate of growth in average pay, with some economists believing that current patterns of migration suppress wage growth, particularly for lower paid jobs.

But whatever the reason, the current figures point to Aucklanders who don’t own their own homes being caught between the rock of rapidly rising rents and the hard place of slowly rising wages.

*Notes: Average rents are calculated by from bond data supplied by Tenancy Services at the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment. Average Weekly Net Pay is based is on Statistics NZ's Quarterly Employment Survey (Full Time Equivalent, Total Average Weekly Earnings) with  PAYE and ACC earner deductions calculated at IRD's standard rates. All figures are rounded to the nearest dollar.  These figures will be updated quarterly by

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I don't quite understand how the central thesis of this article has been arrived at. Yes rents are rising at a greater rate than wages, but this premium is about 2%. "The situation is particularly acute in Auckland, where the average rent increased from $499 a week to $519 a week, up $20 a week (+4%), while average after tax pay rose from just $962 a week to $972 a week over the same period, an increase of just $10 a week (+1%). So in Auckland, average rents rose at four times the rate of average take home pay, and in dollar terms, the rent rise was double that of average take home pay." On the average rent for the average property the net increased cost (ie net of wage increases) is.....$10 a week. The additional rent payment would support additional mortgage debt of.....$14,000. Whoopy doo. I would not describe this additional rent payment requirement as "acute" or dire. It seems to me to be pretty manageable. It is not at all indicative of a crisis, certainly not of a significant shortfall in rental accomodation. Yes the ratio sounds big "rents rise at 4x rate of income increase", but the numbers are so small they barely move the needle. The divergence between rent and wage increases represent.... 2 trips in a bus.....2 lattes....less than a pint of beer.

And this is at a time when immigration is surely at peak. I would find it difficult to believe the numbers will get bigger than they are now. Given elevated immigration, surely the right conclusion is that upwards pressure on rents is actually very very modest.

Its not just about the cost, its about the underlying issues that are causing it, however compounded over 5-10 years 4% rent increases starts to put a dent in your pocket if you're just getting a 1-2% pay increase each year

The current rates of increase do not qualify as a "surge" nor do they indicate a "housing crisis". I don't know what the future holds for rents, but the HAM analysis shows that rental affordability in Auckland, unlike purchase affordability, had actually IMPROVED

Bobster its starting to seem like you have a core thesis and you simply interpret everything to be in-line with that thesis. Any increase in rents above inflation likely represents competitive pressure for rentals. Rents cant simply explode though as rent is already high and people can only pay so much before they will choose to crowd. The crowding effect blunts a 'housing crisis'. Affordability is the ability to pay, it does not by itself cause rents to rise unless there is competitive pressure to pay more. If you provide a link then we can actually read what youre talking about.
Edit: I have found it and after reading it, and the associated methods PDF I would note that one of the main influences is the number of people per household. As i noted above crowding is a powerful effect that can blunt a housing crisis and as a natural consequence of having more incomes per household, the affordability of certain households improves as you pack more earners in to the household:

TL;DR Affordability can improve by packing more incomes in to rental households, while at the same time rents can rise faster than wages as the more crowded rental households bid more for the scarce rentals.

Well, no I am trying to see what's in the data that proves there is a housing shortfall that is causing the increase in house prices. Increased in house prices doesn't in itself prove that hypothesis, as it doesn't strip out credit. When you strip out credit and look at rents, there is no corresponding movement. Yes there is upward movement, but how material is it? If you look at the's not very material st all, in my view. Plus the HAM affordability study concluded affordability had improved, not worsened. It's a really important issue, as divergence if yields and prices is the classic sign of a credit bubble. Rent CAN rise sharply in times of supply or demand shock: post Christchurch earthquake is a good example. Many on this site baldly state that the high prices are simply a function of supply and demand for accomodation. That just doesn't stack up, and I think you already concede that at one point. I actually think all the numbers are on my side, so if someone wants to take a different view I think they need to come up with data. Anecdotes like "everyone know migrants all sleep 3 to a bed" doesn't cut it. Small changes in the assumptions about how many people are in a household blow the "housing crisis" thesis or if the water. Come up with data and we can debate. Currently, the datas on my side, and that data supports the view that current prices are not driven by owner occupier demand.

(copied from above)
Edit: I have found it and after reading it, and the associated methods PDF I would note that one of the main influences is the number of people per household. As i noted above crowding is a powerful effect that can blunt a housing crisis and as a natural consequence of having more incomes per household, the affordability of certain households improves as you pack more earners in to the household:

TL;DR Affordability can improve by packing more incomes in to rental households, while at the same time rents can rise faster than wages as the more crowded rental households bid more for the scarce rentals.

But doesn't that support the view that current prices are not underpinned by owner occupier demand? If you can't afford to rent without increasing heads per household, you certainly can't afford to buy?

Just to be clear, the key point for me is that current prices are not supported by owner occupier demand. There is nothing in the current rental data which evidences that. Yes rents are increasing, but those increases are very modest compared with price increases. To me that indicates a speculative bubble, but I understand you do not wish to use the word "bubble". You see it as a the logical consequence of interest rates. Whereas I see the motivation for purchases by both investors and occupiers to be wholly or partly motivated by the desire for capital gain and/or FOMO. I see this as a phenomenon related to asset prices ie a classic asset price bubble, whereas you see it as being no different to the market for potatos (pure supply and demand, no "animal spirits"). You used this "potato market" analogy on an earlier post.

And yes, I did deliberately misspell potatoes. It was my Dan Quayle moment.

IMO yes, current prices are not underpinned by demand of any sort.

Ok, so I think we are "as one" on that.

I should clarify that I did not say that the housing market is like potatoes. Someone else said that supply and demand curves are true for potatoes but not true for housing, to which i said supply and demand curves are true for potatoes and also for housing. My point was that as prices fall demand would rise. I was arguing that prices would likely fall but they would be falling in to rising demand as there is likely some sort of housing shortfall. However should the fundamental underlying demand be insufficient to arrest a major decline I said I would expect interest rate cuts and changes to the LVR restrictions.
TL;DR I did not say that housing is no different to potatoes.

rents are rising faster than incomes in Auckland because there are a significant number of greedy B..........S masquerading as landlords-many of them happy to have the tenants live in sub-standard properties. These are the same 'respectable' citizens who have been choking with moral outrage over Turei's wrongdoings.

it is a situation that is not good for the consumer economy and leds to asset growth,
its time we had policies to turn this around and national will not be the one
comment from nick smith in the house yesterday " how will labour know at the House auction who is a speculator and who is an investor"
that tells me the mindset there they only see houses one way, as investments not as homes

I wonder which division of our population is, or is very rapidly becoming, the most hated. Landlords perhaps, or only the Slumlord subclass?

Would you rather people were on the street, or in a house owned by a landlord?

Neither Davo36. When it is so very difficult for our young to purchase a home, we are long past the situation where a fair service is being provided. To be brutally honest, such excuses are stupid. indeed, we are now in a situation where lack of home ownership is rapidly lowering our societal standards to the degree that rapaceous landlords are becoming a serious threat to societal stability, especially in Auckland. I have zero respect for those that make a living by exploiting the less fortunate in society.

Didge, why do you "wonder which division of our population is, or is very rapidly becoming, the most hated" ?

While I dont have the empirical evidence to support this hypothesis , I would suggest that given the high rate of inward migration and ( relatively ) the low rate of house building are the 2 factors contributing to the rent surge .

There is no "surge", if you do the numbers the divergence between rents and incomes is actually very modest.

It's a bloody disaster

what is a "bloody disaster" ?

..nothing to see here, we need to get back to the bigggggg issues, like someone having two boarders a 100 years ago.

Exactly, this is comparably minor, more akin to using taxpayer funds to hush up a crime then lying about it to the public. Absolutely nothing to see here.

Well what do you know. Great minds think alike or is that fools seldom differ.


Well, migration is the key factor in all of this - yet denied as being a problem, more demand and limited supply for existing homes = increased house prices and increased rental costs (economics 101) No one in National is even addressing this issue at all as they all have vested interests in it.

In Australia the rules are far better and solve themselves, i.e. you want to come NZ? great! but here are some names for developers and you can build your own home over there... But you cannot buy the existing housing stock - you can only rent it, Naturally this policy protects the locals from foreign money buying existing assets at premium prices as they legally can't (well, without using numerous corporate entities anyway) - and it creates more housing supply while at the same time supporting the building and construction industry at the same time

Why no politician here has raised this is beyond me, but we're all paying the price for it now with houses near record highs, migration at record highs fuelling the problem and politicians blaming developers, councils (basically anyone else) for not building enough houses to match statisticians "made-up" building forecasts, this isn't a solution - it's diversion...

Time to face the problem head on,
1) Curb migration to reduce demand which is simply adding fuel to the fire - that no-one is really solving
2) Change the rules so they can buy only new houses that actually benefit the economy and pay peoples wages which also increases the total house supply
3) Get banks to lend on/ incentivize these new builds as they benefit NZ as a whole
4) Stop blaming developers or councils for issues that are really created by central government policies and start looking after New Zealanders instead of foreign money and migrants!

Sounds like common sense, but all too often common sense is not-so-common

Agreed. We bought an apartment 10 years ago when our kids planned to study in Auckland CBD. They didn't move in so it has been with an agent for the last decade as have most of the other 70 apartments in the block. Rents have gone up (from memory about $360 to $525). Relevant to this article as per all the other apartments the numbers residing in the small 3 bedroom apartment have increased from 2 or 3 to a standard of 4. I'm told the same increase in tenants also applies to the 2 and 4 bedroom apartments. So rents have gone up but the amount each tenant pays has increased far less.
Not really surprising given massive immigration and low rate of building. Fortunately the immigrants seem more accustomed to minimal living space compared to native Kiwis.

There is no law that says you have to raise the rent, you know.

Rent is set by my property agent who tries to keep all apartments in line. No change of rent for about 2 years. Of course if I insisted he could cut the rent but I wonder why the tenancy has lasted for 3 or 4 years?

There is no law that says you can't house a homeless person at your place blue meanie

hmmm, you are a smart and articulate person and quite frankly I am disappointed by that silly comment... You know EXACTLY what I mean... geez, why do I have to shout tonight? Seems all common sense has disappeared along with Bill English's text messages!

Not true about Australia. Foreign residents can buy established housing for development purposes - this means knocking down an existing home and building two new ones. Consequently there are thousands of unoccupied homes in the leafy suburbs with development consents submitted to Council. There are now entire streets in Melbourne where no one is living as a result. Secondly, anyone with a temporary residents permit can buy a house - that is the main reason why people send their kids to study in Australia, so they can buy houses for their parents/grandparents/other family/friends. You see this in NZ as well, with young 18 year old kids bidding at auction on behalf of their parents, who will pay the money, fly home, having installed the kid for a couple of years, then when they go back it becomes an investment property, or if they apply for Permanent Residency they all make plans to move to Australia.

What you actually need to keep track of is the number of rental properties coming on to the rental market. You're likely to see a sharp increase in the next six months especially if prices prices continue to fall or remain stagnant.

Low spring property sales are likely to result in an influx of rentals on the market in the summer.

Ha! This would be accurate as I have just raised $30/week on one of my rentals.

Yep.I've been steadily increasing rents for four or five weeks.Increasing the yield of our properties and value.

Yep.I've been steadily increasing rents for four or five years .Increasing the yield of our properties and value. no one has moved out either so the rents havnt been captured by tennancy services as only new bonds are included in this report.I'd guess rents are actually a lot higher than whats reported above.

Narabeen , as you clearly are a property investor. Can you give a rundown over the past 4-5 years of the rent increases to increase yield on your properties.

Hi Cow pat.I havn't got much time at the moment but i'll give you a quick rundown.Bought a block of 7 units for $865 k in nov 2014 they were renting for $1200 all up.They are now renting for $1500 four years later.We try to buy under rented properties as then there is upside potential for rents.
Sept 2016 Bought block of flats for 1.3 mill Rent was $2100 Now its rented out at $2315 and further rent increases on the way.
Papamoa bought three bedroom house for $315 k Cant remember what rent was as we bought it 12 years ago but its under rented at $480 a week.
Flats are so much better as if you raise a block of Ten units $10 thats an increase of $100 bringing yield right up and adding value.The house on the other hand can only be put up 10 or fifteen dollars a year.

Classy DGZ/Zac, classy. Must be a couple of other aged relatives you can evict from their homes so you can have a better capital advantage.

I don't think this has anything to do with classy or not classy. The tenant has asked for a 12 months renewal and I have consulted with my Barfoot's Property Manager and she recommended it. The tenant accepted it without any problems. I was prepared to negotiate if he did in fact come back with a lower offer but that wasn't the case.

some one else's fault, aye? Tenants fault because they are shit scared if they say they are struggling they'll be evicted... which I strongly suspect from all the comments you make, you would have absolutely no qualms of doing... so when I say classy, I am being UBER SARCASTIC... in case you couldn't tell.

... renters in Canterbury have received the twin benefits of rising pay packets and falling rents.

As I never tire of pointing out, this happy circumstance has three main causes:

  1. The post-earthquake years saw a Benevolent Dictatorship in the form of CERA and the Land Use Recovery Plan (LURP). This plan was imposed on the flailing Christchurch City Council, overrode their stupid restrictive land use policies, and which was welcomed by the infinitely more alert country TLA's around CCC (who could tell that a windfall was coming their way and made it their business to make building easy.)
  2. The result has been a relative oversupply of both plots and houses: plot prices start with a 1 and new house/plot prices with a 3. Ms Market had had her wicked way with the supply/demand curve, to the great benefit of all concerned.
  3. The financing has been partly Gubmint buyout (e.g. Red-zone properties), partly insurance payouts (e.g. from 'replacement' policies which are, of course, no more...). Neither of these important sources are available elsewhere (unless Wellington gets its Big One or Awks gets another Rangitoto). So this is a particular, very localized factor.

So Christchurch and surrounds' experience of rising wages/falling rents is unlikely to be replicated elsewhere. But the main point to be drawn from this is perfectly simple.

Throwing away restrictions on land supply and development/building actually does work.

And the secondary point is that it is possible to do this elsewhere. Looking at You, Awks.

But that would require a set of actions quite impossible to engineer:

  • Abolishing the MUL/RUB/zoning/plans and letting the effects-based RMA handle off-site effects
  • Firing every spatial planner and getting rid of the Brit Town and Country Planning Act holdovers - the Deep State at AC
  • Carried out by local pollies with vertebrae, cojones and plain gumption. Such animules are rarer than rocking-horse poo.
  • Or imposed by Central Gubmint main force (just like Christchurch). These would requires pollies with (see above)....

So here we sit. Hey ho.

"Firing every spatial planner and getting rid of the Brit Town and Country Planning Act holdovers - the Deep State at AC"


The numbers simply reinforce the fact how 'out of whack' house prices are to rents, particularly in Auckland, and that a deep and long lasting fall in prices has commenced. That surging migration has had minimal effect on Auckland rental costs, (contrary to the commentary), with other regions seeing rising rents without migration.

Unfortunately , everyone has to pay the increase in the cost of living ( the cost of housing is no exception) ... here are few quick numbers which make the bulk of rent increase in a particular year on an average 3 bdrm house in Auckland:
Council rate increase ~$90 pa
Insurance premium increase ~$60 pa
Interest rate variation on the mortgage (40% LVR ) varies between ~ $1600 - $2400 pa (and that is the major expense)
Rate of change in Maint, and other services ~ $60 pa excluding body corporate charges
total running cost increase = $1810 - $2610pa = $34 - $50pa
Most properties will incur around $40 per week cost increase,
Assuming that a property is rented at the market value, then the tenant with $20pw rent increase is actually paying only about 1/2 of the actual running cost of a property.
Obviously ..Landlords who do not face high interest payment increases ( freehold etc) would pass on smaller increases if any.

However, there is always a top seasonal rent ceiling at any given time in each area which constitutes the max rent of any property regardless of expenses etc ( it is the ability to pay that amount) .. the rent increase of $20 pw would mostly be on rents of around 600+pw

On the surface, the increase in immigration adds to the demand , however, most of these new tenants are incapable of paying these high rents so we note more boarding immigrants and crowded houses.

"Unfortunately , everyone has to pay the increase in the cost of living ( the cost of housing is no exception) ..." Another ridiculous comment from you. Aren't you the one always gloating about your capital gains? Therefore you counter your own argument as your property has gone up by so much, the roof over your tenants head should therefore be cheaper. You're just trying to justify your bludging of hard working Kiwis. What a remarkable person you are.

Blue meanie an increase in capital gain is not an increase in cashflow with which one pays the bills.

That shouldn't really matter...

I'm not against people putting up rents.
But the total return of the investment is a function of period yield and capital gains. If you can't pay for period bills with period yield, it implies an impending medium term adjustment in market yield at the cost of capital gains.
Short term, the landlord needs to allocate unrealised capital gains to cover outgoings.

The crux of it is, given a long term average rate of return, if you are now having to supplement more and more period outgoings, it is a sign that asset appreciation is declining.
Depending on what your investment strategy is, you could fast be out of the money.

notaneconomist - neither has the property increased in price. In fact, if Eco Bird/tothepoint is as an astute business person as he/she professes to be, the actual cost of the property has gone down... therefore he/she should actually decrease the rent. But I suspect like DGZ/Zac he/she'll do anything, even take food out of a child's mouth to get any extra cent they can. wonderful folk indeed.

We still have that bet Blue Melanie, you say National will will be able to govern alone, I say NZFirst will be king maker. Look forward to meeting you over the beers, whoever wins them

you bet ya! There have been some interesting changes since we made that bet Yvil. Am not sure National will do it now, I think Jacinda and the resignation of Metiria might have changed things... but a gamble in life is a gamble, everything we do has only a 50/50 chance of success.. a beer and a yarn the only exception... so yip am looking forward to it no matter the result :)

blue meanie I am not a moron like you describe it. In fact I am quite a nice person.

I am laughing out loud! Really, really belly laughing! A moron I would never accuse you of being DCG/Zac, you are clearly a very smart person. Nice? No!


Is the landlord's benefit (the accommodation allowance) a factor that skews the income data? Have the announced increases in the accommodation/landlord's subsidy/benefit come into effect yet, or is the market possibly pricing them in early, given that higher subsidies are paid in the likes of Auckland and Queenstown?

No these will come in effect next April if Nat was re elected ...
As I just said there is a ceiling for rent everywhere one can cash up front on anything ... there is a limit of what people are prepared to pay

Obviously , landlords are not interested to have empty properties as the cost of each week accumulates to a small fortune - hence there is always a compromise with good tenants ...

Welcome to your brighter future peasants. Enjoy being a tenant in your own country. Don't forget to vote for the neoliberal party in September.

The number of people moving into Auckland and Wellington are alarmingly higher than the rate of new home building. All statistical analysis concur in their inference that immigration is both depressing wages and increasing the median cost of living, but the government still wants us to believe that this is not the case.

We are not allowed to criticise immigration. See mentioned on the radio but not a word in the Herald for two days. Admittedly it is similar to what they reported last December and even four years ago
It is Greesham's Law in action. NZ ends up with a bunch of low wage immigrants and Canada gets the PhDs in engineering, IT & technology. Low wages lead to over-crowding not new houses.

Glad I'm not the up and coming generation......your pretty much buggered

Does look that way indeed, but only because they let it happen to themselves.

Last election was saw 35% no show in the 18-35 year old's bracket. That is is approx 9.5% of the total voting population in NZ. .One wonders if they will all vote for property price stupidity to continue (insert heavy sarcasm) or do something disruptive like all vote for TOP, whose tax policy would be as well received by specuvestor's as the water announcement today was by farmers.

The last 10 years of youth just fled to Aussie and London...oh wait those options are a crap now....what to do indeed.

They haven't defended themselves while being shafted, that's true.

Not to mean we should blame the victims, however. There are still the parties carrying out the shafting.

I just dont get that.

NZers have always been helpful, helping each other out, thats whats great about NZ, we have a farming helpful heritage. You travel the world and with huge populations its hard to stay personable and friendly. NZ is unique but small. Now people are trying to change this.

I get that some people dont help themselves, but that doesnt mean we shouldnt care. Is this the NZ we want and to grow up in, and our children to grow up in. I always say to people, in NZ you dont need millions, as we have a million dollar lifestyle, but this seems to be changing.

Plus I always think to make NZ strong we look at community and band together as NZers. Like the Kea community for businesses. If my business is successful (its a big if) I want to help people out. Not like some people on here. I think its quite sad really.

"That means the average increase in rents has exactly equalled the average increase in take-home pay over that period"
Doesn't sound like a "rental crisis" to me, especially when inflation is near zero

A property manager I know in Wellington (who manages several hundred houses/apartments) says that there's a huge shortage of rentals in the inner-city suburbs. He anticipates rents are going to climb significantly in the peak season (Jan-March).

He says houses are more in demand, relative to apartments - but most houses aren't in great condition. Anyway, he reckons landlords are finding they can increase rents easily, without making improvements.

Personally, I can never figure the logic of not maintaining a property.

It ain't rocket science if you are thinking twice about whether or not you are going to realize your LTCG then focus on your Yield.