Some elderly people in Rotorua are falling through the cracks, struggling to live, entering retirement without owning their own house - and even becoming homeless because they are ''too embarrassed to seek help'', social agencies say.

The news comes ahead of a rental crisis which has seen the Rotorua Lakes Council shut off its pensioner flat waiting list due to high demand and investigate the possibility of starting up a community trust to provide more housing.

And it does not stop there. Ministry for Social Development data reveals it had 103 applications on its social housing register in the Rotorua District to June 2017 including six from people aged over 65.

It manages Housing New Zealand's 647 properties in Rotorua and plans to deliver another 80 houses, with half of them one bedrooms over the next four years.


Mayor Steve Chadwick said the council was identifying potential partners and service models for a community trust to provide pensioner housing.

The trust could become the umbrella for wider social and affordable housing provision in Rotorua, while the new Rotorua Housing Accord would enable some fast-tracking of processes.

"Social housing in particular is complex and requires a central government approach. Council and other agencies have a role to play but we don't have the funding or expertise to be a provider beyond what we currently do.''

The council has 152 flats in five complexes in Glenholme, Fenton Park, Westbrook and Ngongotaha. About half were studio units, the rest one-bedroom units and the waiting list had been closed at 40.

Grey Power Rotorua president Russell Hallam said there was a real need for safe, affordable homes for over 65s and those who did not own homes had it ''pretty tight''.

''If they are relying solely on superannuation they are living frugally . . . the rents are quite high. There is a growing percentage who are entering retirement without home ownership - it's a growing trend and that will only continue to grow.''

Love Soup Rotorua co-ordinator Gina Peiffer said it had helped house elderly including a 78-year-old.

It worked in conjunction with property mangers and put in safeguards to make sure rents were paid.

''They find it incredibly difficult. I mean they may get a place and pay market rental then you have the issue of how do they pay power, how do they buy food and what do they have left over for miscellaneous items that they may need like personal care and cleaning products.''

The elderly were overlooked because ''the main bulk of the homelessness at the moment are families and so they are focusing in on the kids and the mums''.

Another issue was pride, she said.

"A lot of them stay quiet and they suffer."

Mrs Peiffer said she had tried to spread the word about its services as they could help elderly with free food, Work and Income advocacy support and house furnishings.

Salvation Army Rotorua Lieutenant Kylie Overbye said figures from its latest quarter showed it had accessed 341 people from across the board and one in five inquiries related to housing.

It operated five transitional houses in conjunction with MSD for 12 week blocks where it offered wrap around services.

But the biggest trend with seniors the Salvation Army had noticed was overcrowding.

''Rents have gone up by about $25 per week and that affects their budget. So they are coming in asking for assistance because maybe their children are coming home with their children because of the lack of housing," she said.

She said it was "embarrassing for them to come in and say I'm really struggling - it's a generation when they keep those things to themselves'', but she wanted to encourage more people to reach out.

Retirement Commissioner Diane Maxwell said while the majority of retirees today are mortgage free that landscape would change as home ownership rates dropped.

''We will see a growing group of retirees who are renting. Some of the challenges with renting are particularly hard for older New Zealanders: uncertainty around length of tenancy, the physical and financial demands of moving house and increased isolation if you don't know your neighbours.

''We need a good supply of small, low maintenance, well insulated rentals which are near public transport, and strong tenancy laws that provide peace of mind for older renters.''

Meanwhile TradeMe data showed the median rent for units in Rotorua had jumped from $190 in August 2013 to $275 last month with small houses (one to two bedroom) going from $215 to $290 over the same time frames.

Head of Property Nigel Jeffries said Rotorua had been in a catch up phase.

''Rent rises typically start from the larger centres first before we see a trickle down effect to the neighbouring towns. This is what we are seeing now with Rotorua. ''

''Across the country we are seeing more tenants begin to look further afield as rental prices climb in the main cities. This increased demand is what is putting pressure on the median weekly rent in Rotorua.''

Council pensioner housing
Rotorua Lakes Council has 152 flats in five complexes in Glenholme, Fenton Park, Westbrook and Ngongotaha. About half are studio units, the rest one-bedroom units.

Rent per week ranges from $83.40 to $124.30 for a single person and from $121.70 to $156.30 for couples.

Because the wait time can be over a year the waiting list, currently at 40, has been closed off.

People are instead referred to the MSD social housing register.

It is important people are listed there to give Central Government a better idea of local need.

Source: Rotorua Lakes Council
Rotorua Housing Accord

An agreement between Rotorua Lakes Council and Government to address housing supply and affordability.

Aims to support and encourage residential development.

Enables fast-tracking of consenting and where appropriate, District Plan zone changes.

Aspirational targets: 1000 sections and 700 dwellings to be consented between 2018 and 2020.

Source Rotorua Lakes Council