Rooms to Rent: Hand-me-down Uni student flats don’t come cheap in Wellington

Rooms to Rent: Hand-me-down Uni student flats don’t come cheap in Wellington

ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF

Wellington commerce student Kahli Balle takes us through a tour of her inner-city apartment.

Each week, Rooms to Rent reporter Mikaela Wilkes talks to Kiwi renters about what they get for their money. 

CENTRAL WELLINGTON 

Kahli Balle and her four flatmates are moving out of their Manners St apartment before its lease ends. 

The second-year Victoria University students met in the halls. This was Balle’s first flat, where she paid $220 per week before expenses for one of the converted office’s biggest bedrooms. 

The academic year ends in November, but one-year leases don’t typically changeover until January. 

This forces non-Wellingtonian students to choose between taking a lease on early, and funding it, “even though they’re not living there until February,” or to risk starting the next semester without a place to live.

The inner-city location of this Manners St apartment is great for transport but dodgy at night, said its tenants.

ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF

The inner-city location of this Manners St apartment is great for transport but dodgy at night, said its tenants.

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Wellington commerce student Kahli Balle in her Manners Street Apartment in Wellington City.

ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF

Wellington commerce student Kahli Balle in her Manners Street Apartment in Wellington City.

THE LOWDOWN:

Kahli’s rent: $220 a week, plus expenses. We staggered the rent: Two of us paid $220, two people paid $210, and one paid $190. 

Location: There are lots of the takeaway shops right next to us, great for all-nighter study snacks. The buses stop across the road. I’m doing a double degree in commerce and design, so I loved being able to get to all three Uni campuses easily. The two un-earthquake safe buildings beside us are abandoned. 

What do you get: A decent-sized bedroom, a spacious living room, one bathroom, thin walls, no windows that open, CBD location right next to transport. 

How long have you been here: Since November 2018. 

The two buildings on either side of the apartment have been deemed un-earthquake safe and abandoned.

ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF

The two buildings on either side of the apartment have been deemed un-earthquake safe and abandoned.

Flat headcount: 5 

Do you cook together: We all cooked separately. If someone steals your chocolate there’s a bit of an argument, but other than that, it’s all good. 

What’s nearby: The apartment is next door to Te Aro park and Capital Liquor store, which now has to shut at 6pm – but that hasn’t helped much. It’s quite dodgy coming into the building at night through the alleyway. 

How did you get it: The other girls were looking for a flat together and invited me to be their fifth person in this apartment.

How many places did you apply for before this one: None. 

Top food & drink picks nearby: Sixes and Sevens, On Cuba St Midnight Espresso is mean. 

​Is the flat a good deal? Yeah/Nah. I wouldn’t choose to flat in this building again.

Student loan remaining: I’m still borrowing at the moment. I have got KiwiSaver, but I won’t be looking to buy a house until I’m quite a bit older.

Rooms to Rent is a Stuff series designed to give us all a better picture of what’s fair to pay in NZ’s rental market. If you’d like to take part, email [email protected] and we’ll be in touch. 

The rent on this apartment will increase by $10-$15 per head in 2020. “It was smart of us to take this lease early for security, but I can’t afford to do it again.” The students are all moving into different friend groups’ flats next year.

Balle is spending this summer at home in Pukekohe. “I work and save to pay for the year ahead.” 

She will be relying on Wellington-based mates to attend flat viewings on her behalf.

Kahli Balle is grateful that her mum helped to pay for her bedroom furnishings. She will have to sell them on.

ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF

Kahli Balle is grateful that her mum helped to pay for her bedroom furnishings. She will have to sell them on.

The apartment lounge is spacious and has great sun during the day, but there is no way to regulate its temperature.

ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF

The apartment lounge is spacious and has great sun during the day, but there is no way to regulate its temperature.

The inner-city location is the apartment’s selling point but there are significant drawbacks said Balle. The flat’s inward-facing windows do not open, and one bedroom has no window at all.

Balle’s apartment is on the third floor of the building, directly above a backpackers’ hostel on level two. 

“The worst part by far is how thin the walls are. You can hear someone cough on the other side, they feel like two pieces of Gib stuck together.”

Tenant Kahli Balle said the biggest drawback of the converted office building is the thinness of the walls.

ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF

Tenant Kahli Balle said the biggest drawback of the converted office building is the thinness of the walls.

The tenancy itself was a learning curve. The fridge broke down and wasn’t replaced for three months and the hot water cylinder burst twice.

The students were told messages about their wet floor and a request for electricity bill compensation on the back of delayed repairs, weren’t received, which was frustrating.

Balle is keen to keen to upgrade her quality of living but, “I’m not really sure how I’ll find somewhere that’s a bit nicer than this place in Te Aro, at a lower price point,” she said.

As a student, renter Heath Campbell lived in Balle’s building. He said it would be a very hard to find an apartment as nice the one he has now, for $220. Seventy-eight per cent of 7500 polled Stuff readers agreed. 

The apartment's kitchen has modern appliances, but the tenants went without a fridge for three months after a breakdown.

ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF

The apartment’s kitchen has modern appliances, but the tenants went without a fridge for three months after a breakdown.

Balle is selling her furniture, and will re-purchase when she returns. “I’ll have to repeat this process again next November.”

“We’re paying the same amount as Auckland students and they’ve got nice houses to live in, in the outer suburbs of the CBD. The houses in Wellington’s suburbs are marginally cheaper, but not necessarily nice.

“The rent is really expensive for what we’re getting,” she said.

Balle believes you have to really value the Wellington culture and its student lifestyle to want to pay for it.

The biggest struggle facing student renters (besides price) is the disconnect between the academic calendar and one-year leases, said Kahli Balle.

ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF

The biggest struggle facing student renters (besides price) is the disconnect between the academic calendar and one-year leases, said Kahli Balle.

ADVICE FOR FIRST-TIME FLATTERS

Kahli: Try not to worry too much about looking at flats in November if you’re not sticking around for summer. The places you’re looking at will be taken. Flatting with friends from the halls can be great because you already know what they’re like to live with. 

Another good option is finding an empty room in an existing flat on Vic Deals. But if you’re wanting a nice flat, you’re going to have to pay for it. Don’t expect to be paying $190 and living beautifully. 

SoHo apartments are known for having some of the smallest bedrooms, and beware the dampness of houses in Aro Valley. 

If you have a yarn to share for Rooms to Rent, email [email protected] with a sentence or two about your place and we’ll be in touch. 

We’ll need to take photos and video of you in your home – and you’ll need to be happy to say how much rent you’re paying – so make sure it’s cool with your flatties/partner too, even if you’re the only one being interviewed.

Level two of the building is a backpackers and it's a stones throw from Te Aro park and Capital Liquor.

ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF

Level two of the building is a backpackers and it’s a stones throw from Te Aro park and Capital Liquor.

Homed

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