Rent increases of 10 per cent or more in Tauranga are not keeping up with increases in income, says Labour's housing spokesman.

Phil Twyford was in town yesterday visiting social service providers, together with Labour's senior citizens spokeswoman Ruth Dyson.

Mr Twyford said people were living in "severe housing distress".

"While there is a lot of building going on in Tauranga at the moment, there's crazy stuff happening in the rental market and people are finding it quite tough.


"Very few people in Tauranga would have had a 10 per cent increase in their pay in the last 12 months to match the 10 per cent increase in rents."

The spin-off of Auckland's housing affordability crisis was that Aucklanders who could not buy in their city were buying in Tauranga and Hamilton.

Mr Twyford said there needed to be change for renters, which Labour would achieve in two ways.

Firstly, the party would introduce minimum standards or "warrants of fitness" to ensure all rental properties were insulated and equipped with a modern fixed heating source before they could be rented out.

Secondly, a reform was needed of the Residential Tenancies Act to encourage longer-term tenancies, which Labour would discuss with relevant parties once it was in Parliament. Emergency housing would also be addressed.

He praised the work support agencies were doing in this regard, but said there needed to be more and "central government needs to step up".

Mr Twyford wanted to see more state houses built to address a shortage. "The answer is to build more houses, not sell off the ones we've got."