More of the city's homeless could get roofs over their heads if Tauranga landlords can be persuaded to lease their properties to the Government.
The Tauranga City Council is planning to launch the "Good Returns" campaign to help tackle the ongoing housing crisis and spiralling rents.
Social agencies have welcomed the project, but a property manager has expressed concern that the council is involving itself in social housing.
Last week, Tenby Powell, speaking as mayor, said the role fell under "the four wellbeings" and the city had working poor who were living in cars, under hedges and couch surfing.
The Good Returns campaign is run under the Kāinga Tupu strategy and the Kāinga Tupu Mayoral Taskforce estimated there were 4000 homeless in the region. The leases would be managed by registered housing provider the Tauranga Community Housing Trust.
Families, beneficiaries, low-income earners, the elderly and the city's vulnerable were most likely to be eligible for houses under the scheme.
Rents would be capped at 25 per cent of the tenant's fixed income, with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development making up the difference - in line with current market values.
Tauranga City Council Community Development adviser Jodie Robertson said the council needed "to think outside the square" following Covid-19 when a large number of people were placed into emergency housing, including motels.
The council was appealing to property owners and investors to plug the gap instead of waiting for more social housing to become available or get built, she said.
Powell said the rough sleepers in downtown Tauranga "were the tip of the iceberg".
"Many of our homeless are the working poor. They couch surf and sleep in cars but they have a job that they go to. And they don't come back to a house or home, like many of us do but to a car or a hedge."
He said the council had responsibility under the four wellbeings that included the social, environmental, cultural and economic performance of the city.
"Kāinga Tupu has managed to bring everyone together for one common cause to end homelessness. It's a big vision and an aspirational vision and it's one we should be proud of.
"Will we get there, I don't know but we are going to give it a damn good go. The rubber will meet the road where we actually put these people into houses of some sort."
Tauranga Community Housing Trust general manager Jacqui Ferrel said the trust had a portfolio of 200 properties - 88 of those were leased long-term from private owners and property investors.
"This is not a new approach to TCHT, we have been doing this successfully since 2017 but with no promotion. We have partnered with TCC to promote and rebrand the programme with the aim to increase the housing stock available to tenants that are unable to achieve a rental through the private market."
She said the recent Residential Tenancy Act and Healthy Homes law changes made it a real challenge for landlords to manage their investment properties.
The trust would take care of all the legislative requirements and there would be no property management fee as that was built into the subsidy received from the Government.
"These benefits make this initiative an attractive option for property investors. Property owners also have peace of mind that we provide active support to all tenants, more so than a typical property manager would do, which helps tenants sustain and manage their tenancies and we are able to monitor and inspect their asset more often.
"As the name says, it's Good Returns for both the community and property owners."
The People's Project manager Simone Cuers said it was working with 67 people to find them a permanent, stable housing solution.
Since it was established in June 2018, it had found 75 people homes.
There was a significant shortage of affordable rental housing and social housing, she said, and the People's Project welcomed the initiative.
"Every person we are working with to find a home would move into one tomorrow if one was available."
A Housing Ministry spokesperson said historically it had not been common for landlords or holiday homeowners to list their property for use as public housing and to support people on the public housing register.
However, Kāinga Ora and community housing providers had built relationships with developers and investors for public housing through lease arrangements.
The ministry supported the direction the Western Bay of Plenty's Kāinga Tupu Mayoral Taskforce on homelessness was taking to partner with government agencies, local philanthropic funders and the community to improve the housing situation in the sub-region.
Meanwhile, the market rents were generally based on rents of comparable properties in the relevant market and within the parameters set out in the Public Housing Plan. On average that was which $425 a week for a three bedroom house.
Tauranga Rentals owner Dan Lusby said, in his view, it was fine for a private owner to rent to the Government but the council should not be involved.
He said there were risks and he believed some tenants had trouble finding houses because they did not look after them or pay the rent.
"So if the Government's happy to pay the rent, well, that's fine for a private owner. It's the risk those owners take and usually they'll sign up for a long period so an owner will be stuck with them."
Lusby did not agree on the council having any role and said ''with the high demand we have in Tauranga for housing we don't need another drain on it. We are short of properties all the time because of all these ex-pat Kiwis coming home".
Tauranga Property Investors Association president Juli Tolley said any private landlords considering this option should ensure their insurance coverage was valid for such an arrangement.
"It could be good for those landlords [who] want complete hands-off management and just want to see rents coming in, but definitely does not fit all property owners."
Trade Me figures showed the median weekly rent in Tauranga in September was $550, up from $510 compared to the same month last year.
Spokesman Logan Mudge said supply was not keeping up with demand.
"This is pushing rental prices up across the board and putting pressure on the renters' wallets."
Who has been part of Good Returns?
Tauranga City Council
Tauranga Community Housing Trust
The People's Project
Ministry of Social Development
Accessible Properties NZ Ltd
Kainga Ora: Homes and Communities
Ministry of Housing and Urban Development
Bay of Plenty District Health Board