Families with bad credit are struggling to find accommodation in the Bay as rents skyrocket and agencies report a chronic shortage of properties. One company told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend it had no rentals on its books due to demand while a social service organisation said three families a day were seeking help.
Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust social services manager Pikiteora Russell said 99.9 per cent of families, primarily single mothers, that came to them because they could not find accommodation, had bad credit ratings and could not afford the high rents or compete against others to secure homes.
The trust wanted to address those underlying issues but it lacked funding to kickstart a programme that would be supported by wraparound services already in place.
Applying for a house through rental agencies was like being on the waiting list for Housing New Zealand, she said and "even if they have a good credit rating, on average it's $400 for a three-bedroom house".
"A lot of our low-income families can't afford that and Work and Income New Zealand is very reluctant to provide accommodation supplement or any grants to support that kind of money."
People who found themselves homeless had usually been evicted or had been asked to leave the accommodation they were in.
"They search for family then the families are just in the same predicament as what they are. It's overcrowded but their heart goes out and they say 'yes, you can stay here but only for a short period of time' or they will go to friends."
Ideally the service tries to get "in between there at that stage", she said.
Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust director Tommy Wilson said the situation was getting worse.
"Where are we going to put these people for Christmas? These are not the street people, these are the mums with the kids."
Tauranga Budget Advisory Service manager Diane Bruin said rental properties were in hot demand and people with bad credit ratings were at a disadvantage.
"Rentals have increased and for some it is out of reach but some people are travelling further to get more reasonably priced rental accommodation."
Rentals BOP owner Gary Prentice said demand for houses was "huge" and "we actually don't have any houses available for rent at the moment, none".
Houses that were renting in the low $300 bracket 12 months ago were now fetching rents in the high $300 price range. Rents for some existing tenants had gone up 10 per cent over the same period.
"The market definitely rules," he said.
Tauranga Rentals owner and REINZ residential property management committee representative for Bay of Plenty and Waikato Dan Lusby said he attended a conference in Wellington earlier this week and Tauranga was behind Auckland in terms of demand and rising rents.
Figures from the Ministry for Social Development showed to September 2015, 156 people were on the waiting list for Housing New Zealand homes in Tauranga compared to 127 to September 2014.
Minister Paula Bennett said the Government was acutely aware of the housing difficulties faced by vulnerable New Zealanders and the pressure on housing providers.
"We will make announcements around more support for emergency housing in the next few months, and our wider Social Housing Reform Programme is improving the supply and quality of housing for those more vulnerable New Zealanders."
Housing New Zealand Bay of Plenty area manager Teresa Pou said it had a total of nearly 1300 properties in the Tauranga District.
"Over the past 12 months we have acquired six new properties. We are due to complete the building of six new properties by January 2016 and eight new properties by April 2016."
Centrix managing director Keith Laughlin said on average a standard default would stay on the record for five years.
However, he advised people to access a free copy of their credit history and "fess up and front up" to potential creditors like landlords, "because they will respect you for it.'
Jyothi gets life on track
Jyothi Kumar is moving forward and has regained her fighting spirit after declaring bankruptcy and almost facing homelessness.
The single mother of two has spent over two years living with different friends to share costs as rents in the city spiralled and she could not foot the cost on her own. She is sharing her story with the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend to let others know there is hope and no shame in seeking help when you reach a low point in your life.
Two weeks ago Mrs Kumar shifted into a two-bedroom Housing New Zealand home after seeking assistance from the Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust.
With no family in New Zealand she reached out and said it was difficult staying at other people's places as she was always worried about her youngest child Angel crying or making too much noise.
Her debt accumulated when she was not working following a marriage break-up and could not meet the repayments but now she had a part-time job.
"I can't believe we have our own home, it is so quiet here and the neighbours are nice."