Ministry of Social Development's social housing deputy chief executive, Carl Crafar, says there were many different ways the ministry can help struggling families.

"And getting an accurate understanding of people's circumstances means we can get them the right help. That could mean helping with rental costs to keep people in the house they had.

"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."

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Mr Crafar said the ministry worked to ensure social housing was available for those in greatest need. "It's important to understand that the social housing register is not a time-ranked wait list. People with the most urgent needs will be matched to a property first.

"As part of any application we will consider a person's full circumstances, looking at their current accommodation and any barriers they have to sustaining long-term suitable housing," Mr Crafar said.

He said help was available for those living in cars and garages. "We can refer people to emergency housing providers, and assist with recoverable payments for temporary accommodation."

He said from September a new special needs grant scheme for emergency housing would be put in place which 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."