It would take 36 houses to end chronic homelessness in Tauranga as it stands today.

That's according to The People's Project, a housing service that launched in Tauranga eight months ago.

Service manager Simone Cuers, presenting to a Tauranga City Council committee , said a lack of affordable one- to two-bedroom rentals in Tauranga was the biggest hurdle.

The Project operates under the Housing First model: First, provide a house, then help clients sort out other issues such as addictions and family breakdowns.


The Ministry of Social Development has funded the project in Tauranga for two years.

Cuers said 203 people had come through the doors since they opened in June.

Of those, 56 became active clients; all of them "chronic" homeless, or people without a home for more than a year. The rest were given advice and direction to other services.

Of the active clients, 29 were housed in permanent rentals: 19 men and 10 women. All bar one, who went into a Housing New Zealand property, went into privately-owned homes.

Among them was a man who lived on the streets in Mount Maunganui for more than 10 years.

His rental recently passed a housing inspection with flying colours, without any intervention from the Project team, Cuers said.

"What we have seen is ... when people go into housing they blossom. Their skin improves, they put on weight."

She said 70 per cent of those housed were still in their homes, while nine needed rehousing, she said.


One had a relationship break-up, some others had to leave units in two CBD complexes that were being turned into student accommodation for the new Waikato University campus.

That left 36 people in need of a home, she said.

One- and two-bedroom homes were hard to come by, however, in Tauranga's "tight" rental market, reflected in a lack of social housing availability.

Cuers said in their eight months of operation, the group had helped 20 clients apply for social housing places in Tauranga. None were placed.

She said the service was looking for private property investors who owned or were interested in buying blocks of up to eight small units.

She said the units could be leased to social housing providers such as the Tauranga Community Housing Trust, which would rent them to the project's clients.

Cuers said the involvement of the project "de-risked" the scenario for landlords.

They checked in on clients regularly - three times a week as they settle in - and would do whatever was necessary to ensure the lawns were mowed and properties were kept tidy and able to pass property inspections.

Rent was drawn from benefits before they were paid, as were power payments.

She said the project also supplied every client with new furniture and household goods. Sometimes those items wound up sold, she said, but it happened "nowhere near as often as you would think".

A good example of what they were looking for was a six-bedroom complex in Bureta that sold in January for about $2 million, she said.

Genna Short, a property manager at First National, told the Bay of Plenty Times she had rented two homes to People's Project clients about six months ago.

"I couldn't fault them as tenants. They appreciate it a lot more than your average tenant."

She said she likely would not have rented to the clients without the ongoing "back-up" and support the Project provided.

People's Project: by the numbers

Open: 8 months
Through the doors: 203
Active clients: 56
Housed: 29
Men housed: 19
Women housed: 10
To be rehousing: 9
Waiting for a house: 36

Source: The People's Project