Three Northland organisations helping struggling families are planning to either build or lease additional emergency housing as demand for rental properties is at a crisis point.

Salvation Army, Tai Tokerau Emergency Housing Trust, and Habitat for Humanity Northland will work with other agencies such as the Ministry of Social Development and Housing New Zealand this year to help ease the pain for not only those currently in emergency houses but families on the waiting list as well.

The latest Trade Me Rental Price Index shows the median weekly rent in Northland rose 12.9 per cent in just one year, from $350 in December 2016 to $395 for the same month last year, the highest rate in the country.

Northland's population growth and potential home buyers staying in rental properties longer have resulted in a fierce demand for houses to rent.


Adrian Whale, chairman of Tai Tokerau Emergency Housing Trust, said his organisation was looking at larger three to four homes or units which would not be enough but would go some way to helping needy families.

The trust is also exploring the possibility of building temporary houses or leasing existing ones from Housing New Zealand as it currently does with three properties in Whangarei.
Plans are at an early stage

"The permanent solution to the rental crisis is for more houses to be built for people to rent rather than to stay long term [in emergency accommodation]. What we're doing is the tip of the iceberg.

"There's a whole stream of people from solo mums and dads to the elderly and larger families needing emergency housing. In the last six months, we have received 182 enquiries and 131 of that number have registered for temporary housing.

"I'd imagine the rental crisis is only going to get worse. I hope there are a number of groups committed to providing a solution for low income people," Mr Whale said.

He said in many cases, property managers and not landlords put rents up after six-monthly reviews that further exacerbated the crisis.

The trust has an arrangement with MSD to temporarily house needy families and receives funding from Foundation North and the Lottery Community Grants to run its operations.

The Salvation Army in Whangarei is also looking at either leasing or buying existing houses to extend its assistance to more families. It has 11 homes in Whangarei occupied by larger families and is looking at extending to places like Dargaville and Kaikohe.


"At this stage, we're looking at existing buildings rather than building and to extend to areas outside Whangarei but there are limited houses in places like Dargaville," Marlene Bowers of Salvation Army in Whangarei said.

Habitat for Humanity Northland regional general manager, Carina Dickson, said her staff has been discussing options on how to share resources, infrastructure and capability with other organisations to find a solution to the rental crisis.

The national median weekly rent is expected to increase between 3 per cent and 5 per cent this year due to demand. There were 158 listings for Northland residential rental properties on Trade Me and 91 on yesterday.

Last September, the government was spending $25,000 a week in Northland to pay for homeless people to stay in motels or backpacker hostels.

MSD spent $1.33 million providing 1697 people with grants for emergency housing in Northland between July 2016 and June 2017.

The one-year-old special grants are for people "in crisis" who do not have anywhere to stay. The grants allow people to stay in an approved motel or backpackers for seven nights while they look for temporary or more permanent housing.