The Labour Party's new spokesperson for housing says Te Tokerau Emergency Housing Trust offers a model the rest of the country should use.
Labour MP Phil Twyford visited the trust in Whangarei on Thursday as got up to speed with his new portfolio.
"The housing trust not only provides facilities for people who need temporary housing, it's helping people deal with the real issues of poverty," Mr Twyford said. He was impressed with the way the trust worked with other agencies to offer wrap-around help.
Administrator Ange Tepania said the trust was pleased to get Mr Twyford's recognition and positive feedback for the its work. "But we just carry on doing what we do, and hope for the best. We are the landlord of last resort," she said.
Mr Twyford said he was disappointed the trust had to struggle so much financially.
"It relies on charity and philanthropy even though government agencies refer an awful lot of clients to them.
"The trust is grappling with many of the issues that cause people to be homeless. You can't just think you can put a roof over their heads and solve the problem."
Mr Twyford said another example of people being left to deal with things was Housing New Zealand's "retreat from the frontline" behind an 0800 number.
He said it was important Housing New Zealand acted like a responsible landlord and engaged with its clients. Having only two case workers operating in Northland was an irresponsible way to manage the country's valuable public housing estate, he said.
Labour's housing policy was also strong on affordable first homes, and would encourage lending and building at the lower income end of the market.
Ensuring no children grew up in a sub-standard home was the number one aim of the housing portfolio, Mr Twyford said. Landlords should be required to insulate properties and homes should be of a certain quality.
"It's time to set minimum standards here in the North. People have realised we've got Third World rates of children dying from poverty related illness."