Last Saturday the Rotorua Daily Post reported on a growing number of people in Rotorua — including families with children — living in cars, garages and in overcrowded homes due to a shortage of affordable housing. Today, we delve deeper into the city’s housing issue.
More than 50 Rotorua people are on the social housing waiting list while the queue for council flats is also at capacity.
According to the latest Ministry of Social Development data there were 54 people on the waiting list at the end of March - almost 20 more than the last time the Rotorua Daily Post reported on the waiting list in 2014 when there were 36 waiting for homes.
As at the end of March, 26 of those waiting for homes were considered "at risk" - that included households with "severe and persistent housing needs" which needed to be addressed immediately.
The latest Housing New Zealand data shows there are 23 empty state houses in the city, out of a total stock of 655.
Of the empty state houses in the city three were ready to be let with eight under repair and another eight that were vacant due to P-contamination.
Meanwhile, the waiting list for Rotorua Lakes Council-owned flats is full, with the maximum of 50 people waiting meaning the wait list is currently closed.
The council owns 152 flats in five complexes in Glenholme, Fenton Park, Westbrook and Ngongotaha.
About half are studio units and the rest are one-bedroom places with rents ranging from $81 to $153 per week. All the council units are occupied. The waiting list will be reopened when or if it drops below 50.
Carl Crafar, Ministry of Social Development's social housing deputy chief executive, urged anyone with a serious housing need to go to Work and Income to see what help was available.
Mr Crafar said there were many different ways the ministry could help - and getting an accurate understanding of people's circumstances meant staff could get them the right assistance.
"It could mean helping people with rent costs to keep them in the house they have. We can assist with bond and rent in advance to help people secure a place to live. We will also assess people and, depending on their housing need, place them on the social housing register."
He said the ministry needed to make sure social housing was available for those in the greatest need and it was important to understand the social housing register was not a time-ranked wait list.
"People with the most urgent needs will be matched to a property first."
He said supporting people into sustainable rentals or social housing was the best way to prevent the need for emergency housing, however help was available for those requiring immediate help, including anyone living in cars and garages.
"From September, a new special needs grant for emergency housing will be put in place that does not need to be paid back. This can be paid for up to seven days while people work with us to investigate alternative accommodation options.
"As well as helping those in need, a dedicated grant will allow us to track the demand for emergency accommodation."