Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 1. 28 February 1972
Some figures from Wellington's largest letting agency. Key's, gives an indication of the size of the shortage. Among the 700 flats that they have on their books, about fifty are let to students. Over the last holidays, forty of these were retained, at considerable extra cost in rent, as a safeguard for the new year. (A bit rough on those arriving in Wellington for the first time) The other ten were already relet before the 15th of January, incidentally before the University Accommodation Service reopened. During January, Key's let in all about 20 flats to students. During the first two weeks of February there were only three. Flats and houses are almost unobtainable anywhere, for anyone, let alone for students and in the sought after Kelburn-city area.
The University Accommodation Service can back this up. It has been completely unable to meet the demand for the flatting type of accommodation. And the service's statistics cannot take into account the growing number of students who are not even bothering to register because of the poor prospects.
The traditional press statements that passively bewail the shortage of 200, 300, or 600 beds is in this situation inadequate. What is needed is a concerted drive towards building or buying flats and houses. Equally useless is Mr. Boyd's call for a rent ombudsman. Certainly rents have rocketed, probably by 20 or 30% but it is the sheer physical lack of houses that is the problem. A gratuitous gesture like a rent ombudsman into a situation where the seller is so strong, would be almost laughable.
Mere moaning in February and March will not miraculously build houses although publicity is admittedly important.
Some temporary measures will lessen the severity of this year's shortage. After much negotiation with the Ministry of Works, the Student's Association has secured the use of the empty Bowen Street hospital. Efforts have also been made to gain use of a property in Vivian Street, which is doomed if the motorway ever reaches that far. These are quite obviously only temporary measures. Perhaps the people of Wellington will be moved by the reports of the student plight to take in those who might otherwise be sleeping on floors. But the existing problem is barely touched.
What is important is that the University be seen to be acting. Mr R.L. Pollock of Keys offered a suggestion as to where it could look first. His idea was that the Student's Association could become a letting agent, in order to secure more houses for students. Apparently some landlords still shy clear of students for fear they will be noisy, dirty and vandalistic. (when everyone should know that students are really apathetic and conformist.) If the student body(?) were to guarantee rent and reasonable order for the property, Mr Pollock argues that they would change their minds. The Student Letting Office as with down—town agents would charge commission of one weeks rent, and also be a safe conduct bond. There would certainly be risks from damages, but also nonpayment of rent during the holidays. But presumably, the same laws of the jungle would apply as now, and that any student who didn't pay during the holidays would lose his option. There would be considerable administration in handling rents, but this should surely come within the field of the Accommodation Service.