The official waiting list for social housing has started rising again for the first time since the list was transferred to Work and Income two years ago.
Figures released by Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett show that the waiting list jumped by 427 to 5012 in the three months to June and is now the highest it has been since September 2014.
The jump was widely spread across the country. The biggest increases were in Christchurch (up 121), Auckland (up 50), Palmerston North (up 41), Lower Hutt (up 40) and Rotorua (up 29).
Single adults (up 222) accounted for more than half the increase, and most of the rest were sole parents with children (up 185). These two groups now make up 78 per cent of the waiting list.
Bennett said the list "constantly fluctuates as people are housed or their eligibility changes".
"Our frontline teams are working incredibly hard to get people into the right housing for their circumstances, as evidenced by 645 families that were housed in June," she said.
But Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford said the waiting list of new applicants, which excludes existing tenants seeking transfers, had increased in each of the past four quarters.
"I think the reason is that they have sold down the state housing stock and they haven't replaced it," he said.
State house numbers dropped by 2676 from a recent peak of 69,717 in June 2011 to 67,041 in March. A further 2800 state houses were transferred on April 1 to the Tamaki Regeneration Company, 1124 are for sale in Tauranga and 249 in Horowhenua were placed on the market this week.
The waiting list was cut sharply from 5840 in June 2014, just after Work and Income took it over from Housing NZ, to a low of 4467 last September. This was at least partly because Work and Income has taken a harder line with people trying to get on the list, requiring them to provide evidence that they have already applied for private rentals.
Twyford said he knew from his work as MP for Te Atatu that it was now "near impossible for people who are poor and vulnerable to even get on the waiting list".
However Bennett said the number of social housing places would increase by 3000 in Auckland alone in the next three years, including a net 1400 extra Housing NZ homes and "1500 from the community housing sector through the RFPs (Requests for Proposals)".
On top of that, this year's Budget allocated $41 million over four years to fund 800 emergency housing places nationally, including 360 in Auckland.