November 30, 2023

‘There are no homes’: Queenstown workers living in cars, tents, on couches amid rental crisis

"We've seen people have up to 350 applicants for one room."

Queenstown’s rental crisis is forcing workers into their cars and tents, and as the peak tourism season looms, advocates say the town is going to lose crucial workers.

Queenstown worker Hannah Sullivan has lived in Queenstown for seven years and told AM she received her 90-day notice from her landlord when she returned from a trip home. 

Sullivan said she’s been searching high and low for a new rental but has come up against “a lot of dead ends”. 

She told AM a lack of rental supply and high prices are challenges Queenstown renters are battling with. 

“We’ve seen 63 percent of people who’ve done our survey have had rent increases recently and there are, I think 22 percent of people without accommodation living on couches and stuff.”

She told AM rental property viewing attendance has grown significantly to “upwards of 30 people” when they used to attract a “handful of people”.

The worker told AM individual rental rooms are in high demand too.

“We’ve seen people have up to 350 applicants for one room.”

She said the rental situation was so dire that employers are asking applicants if they have accommodation in job interviews. 

“We’re finding a lot of businesses are training staff over a few months and then their staff are having to leave,” Sullivan said. 

“We currently have a shortage of people who can stay long-term and work in these jobs, because there are no homes unfortunately.”

There have been reports of some businesses leasing out accommodation to home their staff in need. Queenstown Workers Collective Founder Simon Edmunds told AM it’s a good short-term solution but shouldn’t be relied on.

“Any solution that gets workers out of their cars and tents and into secure accommodation is welcomed by us.”

But Edmunds says his organisation has got “some concerns” if employers become their worker’s landlords.

“Anyone who’s worked and has ever had a disagreement with their boss will I’m sure understand some trepidation local workers have around their employer also being their landlord.”

Watch the full interviews above. 

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