The growing demand for social housing in New Zealand is showing no sign of slowing down, according to newly-released figures.

The official waiting list for social housing grew by 40 per cent in the last year, and has passed 5000 households for the first time since the Ministry of Social Development took over responsibility in mid-2014.

The increase appears to be driven by demand in Auckland and Christchurch, where a combined 250 people were added to the list since March.

After the last quarter's results were released in April, Social Housing Minister Amy Adams noted that growth in demand had slowed to 2 per cent. It has now bounced back up again, rising 10 per cent in the past three months.

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"Winter is seeing an increase in the number of people needing support," Adams said.

"Our primary focus is getting help to those who need it, and while demand has increased, help is there for those who need it."

Rising rents were also a factor in the increasing demand for social housing. The Government aims to address this by increasing the accommodation supplement - a move announced in its $2 billion families package in May.

Adams said the Government was also responding to demand by increasing the number of social housing places. The number of homes made available through Housing NZ or stage-funded community organisations rose from 65,979 to 66,332 in the last quarter.

The latest Social Housing Quarterly Report also shows the Government is spending $1m a week on emergency housing grants.

The amount spent on putting people up in motels and other temporary accommodation rose from $8.8m to $12.6m in the last quarter.

The Government began funding emergency housing for the first time in 2015 after a review of the sector. It initially budgeted $2m a year for the grants.

Labour's housing spokesman Phil Twyford said National had badly underestimated the scale of the housing shortage.

"National thought they would need to issue just 350 emergency housing grants for motels every three months," he said. "In the last three months, they issued 11,446."

Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett said today that before the Government stepped in, beneficiaries were borrowing money to pay for temporary housing.

"The Government wasn't picking up the bill, they were, and they're the people that could least afford," she told The AM Show.

"We had no idea how much it was going to cost. We had no idea that it would be this big. No Government had ever picked up the bill for this."

Bennett conceded that the Government should have intervened earlier.

"In hindsight, you always wish you'd gone earlier. And I think we do."


SOCIAL HOUSING WAITING LIST
June 2014: 4630
June 2015: 3352
June 2016: 3877
June 2017: 5353
(Housing NZ)