A Rotorua Salvation Army captain is questioning why vacant state homes aren't being filled while people are forced to live in garages.
Figures released under the Official Information Act show there are 39 vacant, lettable Housing New Zealand properties in Rotorua and Tauranga _ and 84 high-priority individuals and families on Housing New Zealand waiting lists.
Rotorua Salvation Army Captain Brian Martin said he would like to see vacant Rotorua Housing New Zealand properties being renovated faster to fill the shortage of much-needed housing.
Housing New Zealand says those on a high-priority list are allocated homes within 10 days.
At least three people a week were coming to the Salvation Army with nowhere else to turn.
Captain Martin said he was surprised to hear there were vacant state homes that weren't being filled when the need was so great.
"I thought they would have maximised all that out. The response you get when you apply or go [to Housing New Zealand offices] is, `Oh, we've got nothing available'.''
Housing New Zealand's stringent criteria did not cover all those who needed somewhere to live, he said.
"Some of the people that we may have come to us may not fall within that criteria. If they're not successful with them, sometimes then they have to move into other situations where they're boarding in people's garages and houses.''
Captain Martin said he would also like to see more compassion for people who were down on their luck.
More than 3000 Housing New Zealand properties were vacant nationwide as of August 31.
Critics say it is disgraceful the nation has thousands of vacant state houses while people are forced to live in cars, overcrowded houses and on the streets.
Tenancy Services manager Darren Toy said there were 19 vacant Housing New Zealand homes in Rotorua of which 10 were currently undergoing repairs, five ready to be let and four up for sale.
Four of those empty are in Fordlands.
The aim was to have homes empty for as short a period of time as possible.
"We aim to keep the time between tenancies to a minimum but this depends on demand and the suitability of the property to those on waiting lists.''
They regularly assessed properties as part of normal asset management and those no longer required or too expensive to maintain were sold,'' Mr Toy said.
"Money made from sales is reinvested back into acquiring and improving state housing in areas of demand.''
Housing New Zealand doesn't offer emergency accommodation but will help people in dire situations find accommodation.
"If someone is living in a garage, then we would encourage them to get in touch with us to see if they are eligible for a state house and if so, we would work with them to find them a suitable property as soon as possible,'' Mr Toy said.
Housing New Zealand acting government relations manager Sharon Girvan said "like any landlord'', the corporation aimed to keep the number of unoccupied properties to a minimum and had a lower long-term vacancy rate than the private sector.
By the numbers (as of August 31)
Two properties vacant due to fire damage.
39 vacant, lettable properties.
Three vacant, "other'' properties.
31 vacant properties pending sale.
One vacant property with planned major repairs/upgrades.
One vacant property under redevelopment
77 total vacant properties in Rotorua/Tauranga.
84 registered priority A and B applicants on HNZ's local waiting list.
3045 HNZ properties vacant nationally.
4.4 per cent of total HNZ stock vacant.
2430 priority A and B applicants on HNZ waiting list.
Note: Some properties categorised as "lettable'' have been matched to waiting list applicants but tenancies are yet to commence.