The freeing-up of Housing New Zealand's once-suspected P-condemned housing stock could be a while away yet in Hawke's Bay, despite more than 250 families now on the waiting lists.

A Housing New Zealand spokesman said yesterday 50 of its vacant properties were being "prioritised" for being put back into use, but none are thought to be in Hawke's Bay.

The spokesman said none were in Napier where the number of families on the waiting list for social housing had increased by more than 20 per cent in the latest quarter, to number 156 at the end of September.

In the Hastings District there were 86, while throughout New Zealand there were 4602, up 18.7 per cent on the June quarter.


Napier city councillor Maxine Boag, whose Nelson Park Ward is home to the greater share of Housing NZ homes in Napier, said it was "appalling" to have "scores" of homes empty due to what were found now to be harmless traces of methamphetamine, when the figures showed such a need for homes in the city.

"Now that the danger of P contamination has been shown to be grossly exaggerated, I would expect the empty houses which have been sitting unoccupied for months or even years to be filled immediately with these high-needs families," she said.

Advocates know of condemned homes where drug use would have been unlikely, and Ms Boag said families whose state houses were falsely classified as having dangerous levels of methamphetamine contamination have, by implication, been criminalised by the misconception that they were manufacturing and smoking an illegal substance.

"Many will have been blacklisted for 12 months without a valid reason," she said.

Napier social housing advocate Minnie Ratima is compiling a list of empty HNZ houses over the next few days and will be presenting it to MPs Meka Whaitiri and Stuart Nash, both of whom are regularly asked for help to house desperate families.

Housing NZ said "it should be noted" that the guidelines under which it had been working were "not linked in any way to any actions we have taken against our tenants".

"The ending of any tenancy related to methamphetamine is because consuming or manufacturing it is an illegal activity and a clear and direct breach of their tenancy agreement," the statement said.

The spokesman said that for a long time there had been only one set of guidelines for property owners to use to determine the health and safety of homes that may be meth contaminated.

"It would have been highly inappropriate for Housing New Zealand to take an independent approach and avoid the guidance that was set by the Ministry of Health," the spokesman said.

"We have engaged with scientists and toxicologists over the past year to peer review and provide recommendations that have supported our view that the guidelines needed to be changed."

The 50 vacant homes being placed back in the "letting pool" throughout the country are expected to be occupied again within a few weeks.