Just over $2.5 million has been spent on emergency housing and special needs grants in Tauranga during the past three months and new figures reveal the number of people getting help is growing.
Despite the overall cost dropping by $275,000 compared with the previous quarter, the number of people getting accommodation in places such as motels and grants to help pay for necessities has gone up significantly from 1054 grants in the quarter ending June 2020 to 1469 for the quarter ending September 2020.
Rotorua still continues to outstrip any other Bay of Plenty area with a total spend coming to nearly $4.7m in the quarter ending September 2020.
Emergency housing and special needs grants for the entire Bay of Plenty for the quarter ending September 2020, which also covered the Eastern and Western Bay areas, came to nearly $8.2m.
Tauranga MP Simon Bridges said a lack of housing in the city was its number one issue.
"Just last week I have been at a Christmas dinner for homeless here - there are literally hundreds who want to but cannot get into homes and so are sleeping in cars or tents or rough.
"The solution required is clear. The Government needs to get on with building more houses. Paying for motel places and the like will only ever be a stop-gap measure."
Tauranga's Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust executive director Tommy Wilson, who runs a service that houses homeless in motels and also helps feed homeless daily, said the latest emergency housing cost report reflected what was happening nationally when it came to the rapidly increasing cost of "renting a whare".
"Here in Tauranga, we have had 1900 new families move here post-Covid. While that is good news for the local economy it is also somewhat sad for those we are desperately trying to help find a whare to live in."
He said the successes of this Government were to be celebrated and everyone wanted to come and live in New Zealand.
"However, these successes should be premised by everyone coming home as it means they want a house to live in or buy - and this will continue to put pressure on those that are desperately looking for a roof over their heads."
He said New Zealand needed to marry up the demographics of Kiwis returning home and the successes that brought the economy with the increase in homelessness that would create.
"In my opinion, we can do both. Let's celebrate the successes of a country that is the envy of the planet while at the same time look after those who will continue to suffer because of that success and those are the poor reflected in the latest figures of emergency housing."
Ministry regional commissioner Mike Bryant said the rise in the number of grants was both a reflection of the need and the length of time each grant was for.
He said grants were generally made for a longer period of up to 21 nights during lockdown because clients were unlikely to move during that time. This reduced the number of grants for the June quarter.
He said there was an increase through lockdown but it had remained consistent in the months since.
The cost of emergency housing depended on the per-night rate set by accommodation suppliers, the number and size of households and the length of time the household needs to stay, he said.
"The reduction in cost between the last two quarters could be due to a range of factors including a shift in market rates, relating to demand and border closures, as well as the different circumstances of the households who needed emergency housing during each quarter."
When asked when it would end, Bryant said the role of the ministry was to ensure people with an immediate housing need got access to emergency housing.
"We are here to help. We will continue to respond to those in need of housing while that need exists. We encourage anyone who needs help with emergency housing to get in touch with us."
Former Waiariki MP and Labour list MP Tāmati Coffey was asked if he was concerned about the emergency housing situation and said: "I'm always concerned that there are whānau living rough, especially with children."
He said increasing public housing stock was a key focus for the Government with more than 18,000 public and transitional homes to be delivered by 2024.
"Right now we have families living in motels, which is far from ideal. However, shelter is better than no shelter at all, especially at Christmas."
He said it was the long-term plan to withdraw from the motels into homes that were healthier and more secure.
He said the Government would hit housing harder still in 2021, with new options that would help more people into homes.
"The initiatives we've already put in place may have satisfied other Governments, but under Jacinda Ardern's leadership, we are just getting started."
He said the Government had made change in the right direction and that was proven with the landslide vote for Labour.
"New Zealanders can see more houses being built in their communities and more support for families too."
He said no one would be surprised housing support was high in Rotorua and Tauranga but he was confident the community could see change was moving in the right direction.
"Change that revolves around building, building and building all at record speed – and we are increasing the trade skills of New Zealanders and supporting developers and iwi, so that we can build even faster."
He said the latest emergency housing figures showed that unlike previous governments that "made struggling whānau jump through hoops in order to get support", Labour was putting more help in better reach.
"So they can get off the streets with stronger opportunities for their future, and keep more of their mana intact."
Waiariki MP Rawiri Waititi couldn't be reached for comment.