More than $1.5 million has been spent on emergency housing grants for motels in Napier and Hastings in the first half of this year, according to Ministry of Social Development figures obtained through the Official Information Act.

Over the year, the amount doubled - for the first quarter it was $571,000 and in the second quarter $933,000.

Napier grants far exceed Hastings'. For the half year, more than $933,000 was spent in Napier compared with more than $556,000 in Hastings.

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National Tukituki candidate Lawrence Yule said part of the reason for the increased grants was they no longer needed to be repaid so were more popular.

"That was putting people further in debt so the Government changed the policy. That explains some of the increase," he said.

Exacerbating the situation was the removal of Housing New Zealand social housing without an immediate replacement plan.

He said state houses were removed because either successive governments maintained them poorly, they contained asbestos or were an earthquake risk.

"The advice at the time was there was not significant demand for housing accommodation. Clearly that advice was wrong and once people became aware that advice was wrong, there has been a plan to build a whole lot of houses".

He said the Government was strongly focused on building more social housing, with 6000 houses to be built.

A "significant number" would be in Napier and Hastings, catering to those currently receiving emergency grants.

"I accept we need a whole lot of houses. I see it every day and when I'm door knocking people tell me that".

Labour candidate Anna Lorck agrees.

"Everywhere I go housing is top-of-mind for so many people," she said.

"Families cannot find rental properties so children are living in caravans, garages, sheds and motel rooms - this is costing our community dearly.

"It is distressing that in a place like Hastings we have a growing problem like this and nothing seems to be addressing the problem, while government land that used to have houses on it lies empty - wasted."

Labour's KiwiBuild programme promises 100,000 affordable homes over 10 years, with half of them outside Auckland.

National's Napier candidate David Elliot said the National government was committed to making sure "every Kiwi has a roof over their head".

"Napier requires more housing, but it also needs an effective MP - someone who can get what Napier needs."

Napier Labour MP Stuart Nash said the figures reflected "the depth and breadth of the problem".

He said he didn't understand - when the need was long-established with land and builders available - why the Government didn't "just get on and start building houses" to replace the 130 removed.

"The only permanent solution is to actually build more houses to replace those pulled down more than two years ago."