Tauranga is "stemming the flood of homelessness" according to a worker on the coalface, despite the city's homelessness costing taxpayers $2.4 million in the last three months of 2020.
Newly released quarterly Government figures show emergency housing and special needs grants cost $9.1m in the Bay of Plenty from September to December.
Emergency housing grants funds people with no other housing options to go into places such as motels while special needs grants are for things such as essential one-off spends.
The area costing the most was in Rotorua, where emergency housing and special needs grants cost $5.6m for the three months.
Tauranga's Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust executive director Tommy Wilson said the figure locally was high but he was pleased it had dropped slightly from the previous month - costing $2.5m for July to September.
He said Tauranga had dropped despite its population swell yet Rotorua had leapt by nearly $1m.
He was critical of Rotorua's emergency housing structure and the Government-funded wraparound services, saying the way it was being done in Tauranga was a good model.
"We put our people back in the community and they don't come back ... We had 2600 families move to Tauranga ... everyone is moving to Tauranga as it's the place to be so you would think these figures would be for Tauranga, not Rotorua. The question has to be asked: why?"
Wilson said he believed Tauranga had "stemmed the flood of homelessness" by fixing the root of the problem.
"I think they [Rotorua] aren't fixing the people up and they are coming around again."
He said his trust operated by becoming the whānau of the person and "adopting" them to work alongside them.
"You can't just take the funding, take them in and if it doesn't work put them out on the street again and then take more funding for someone else. We focus on fixing them up so they don't come back."
Ministry of Social Development Bay of Plenty regional commissioner Mike Bryant said its role was to meet the emergency housing need to ensure people weren't homeless.
"The ongoing rise in emergency housing special needs grants in Rotorua is a symptom of an ongoing shortage of affordable housing. The Covid period has also contributed to the increasing demand for emergency housing.
"We have an important role to play in ensuring those in need have somewhere to stay and they are not sleeping in their cars or outside."
Bryant said there was a major programme of work under way aimed at increasing the supply of public housing and improving housing affordability and supply.
He said Te Tūāpapa Kura Kāinga (the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development) and Kāinga Ora were working to increase the supply of affordable and public housing.
That included planning, and with Kāinga Ora, delivering more public housing, transitional housing, and services to tackle homelessness.
In response to Wilson's comments, Bryant said the ministry congratulated Te Tuinga Whanau for the work it did in Tauranga.
"The increased need for emergency housing in Rotorua, like much of New Zealand, is a symptom of a shortage of affordable housing.
"All our communities have a range of challenges with many affected by supply and demand. It's worth noting that Tauranga has a greater transitional housing supply than Rotorua, which means more people can be placed.
"We have housing support providers across the Bay of Plenty. We appreciate how difficult this work can be and try to support them to be as successful as possible.
"We're here to help and will continue to support our clients with their housing needs as we work with our communities and partner agencies."
He added that in the Bay of Plenty there were 12 senior case managers specialising in housing and eight navigators who were a single and consistent point of contact and provided one-on-one support for people living in emergency housing.
General case managers also regularly liaised with those in emergency housing.
Tauranga MP Simon Bridges said the Government should look at its housing stock.
"These numbers are a huge concern but we also need to remember they represent many families in hardship in our community.
"I urge the Government to take its old housing stock in Tauranga and harness its resources and convert those big old houses on big old sections into many more, warmer, drier, fit-for-purpose homes.
"Two or three state house sections next to each other could fit say five or six new townhouses. And these are what social housing tenants increasingly need and want. After all, today's family has changed and it may not be mum, dad and four kids in the home any more. It may be someone living alone or a sole-parent with one child."
He said if done well, it could end emergency housing for many which was a great expense for taxpayers.
"If you want to know what I am talking about, think of the wonderful townhouses opposite our hospital on Cameron Rd. A couple of state homes became several townhouses. We must do more of this."
Waiariki MP and Māori Marty co-leader Rawiri Waititi said the country was facing a serious housing issue that was only getting worse in the Waiariki and in particular Rotorua.
"The Government needs to trust that Te Arawa iwi and Rotorua council combined, knows what's best for their people. This means devolving the decision-making powers to them and getting out of the way.
"It is short-sighted to isolate the oranga of Rotorua to emergency housing. Te Arawa and Rotorua want to design and implement an enduring plan that doesn't end at emergency housing - a plan that focuses on the future of their uri beyond emergency housing. Te Arawa are in it for the long-haul - they need to be given the reins."
He said the Crown continued to work with a "siloed mentality".
"It's not just about building homes. We need a complete wraparound response that addresses social and employment metrics. This requires for Government agencies to start talking to one another and getting rid of the red tape that stifles development.
"$5.6m dollars is a lot of money being spent [in Rotorua] in short-term solutions of an issue that is worsening by the day. The pressure must be applied to ensure that this Government focuses on investing in long-term solutions and giving the mana of these decisions to the people," Waititi said.
Labour list MP Tāmati Coffey from Rotorua said the figures showed it won't be a short journey to change local housing history.
"However, this Government is getting on with addressing the Waiariki's housing issues, with a multi-pronged approach that combines a responsive resource management system and more direct housing policies and solutions, including policies that are effectively targeted to the needs and aspirations of Māori.
"We have been building on our public housing programme with every budget, to the point we are on track to deliver an extra 18,350 public and transitional housing places by 2024 so people can move off the housing register as quickly as possible."
The public housing options:
• Emergency housing – short-term stays, usually in a motel, funded by the Ministry of Social Development Emergency Housing Special Needs Grant. Grants are typically given for one week at a time, so staff and clients regularly meet to explore alternative options and long-term housing.
• Transitional housing – medium-term stays with contracted providers. The Te Tūāpapa Kura Kāinga – Ministry of Housing and Urban Development looks after transitional housing.
• Public housing – longer-term housing. Kāinga Ora and Community Housing Providers provide public housing.