Northland's social housing crisis is going from bad to worse, with a whopping 75 per cent jump within just one year in the number of people registered to get into state houses.
The most up to date Statistics from the Ministry of Social Development show there were 852 people on the register at the end of September last year compared with 485 at the same time in 2019 — an increase of nearly 76 per cent. It's not clear how many on the list are individuals or families.
In June 2020, there were 716 people on the waiting list but a further 136 were added by the end of September.
Whangārei had the highest number of people needing housing at 502, followed by 290 in the Far North district, and 60 in Kaipara.
Nearly 93 per cent or 790 of the 852 were identified as Priority A, those considered at-risk and included people with a severe and persistent housing need that must be addressed immediately.
The rest fell into the Priority B which were for people with a serious housing need, including those with a significant and persistent need.
The stats also show 126 households that were put in the transfer register which includes those already in social housing who need to be re-housed for reasons such as too few or too many bedrooms, or for health reasons.
A Whangārei mother with a 7-year-old non-verbal autistic son are among Northlanders on the waiting list and claims government entities she approached and applied to for a house turned her down because of her special needs son.
After her son escaped their rental property in Tikipunga early last year and went missing for three hours, she moved her family of four into a garage in Kamo where they lived for one month.
"I was denied a social housing because of my son. We lived in a garage and had two couches and slept on single mattresses on the concrete floor. There was someone's personal belongings in there as well.
"After one month, I got so sick I wrote to the Ombudsman and told him it was child abuse.
My complaint also went to the Women's Refuge and 155 Community House and they were great in helping us move to temporary shelter during Christmas."
Aucklanders moving to Whangārei as well as expat Kiwis returning home were putting further strain on accommodation in Northland.
The ministry's general manager housing Karen Hocking said the causes of demand for social housing were complex, but they included a limited supply of affordable housing throughout New Zealand.
The social and economic impacts of Covid-19 would continue to make things challenging, she said, and that one way the Government was addressing housing need was by increasing the supply of public housing.
"Across government, there is a major programme of work under way aimed at increasing the supply of public housing and improving housing affordability and supply."
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Kāinga Ora are responsible for increasing the supply of affordable and public housing.
Hocking said MSD provided emergency accommodation for many of those in need while longer term options were progressed.
HUD is working with its community housing providers, Housing First Collective and transitional housing providers to identify opportunities to bring on new housing supply to Whangārei. There are 35 rapid re-housing places being contracted for Whangārei.
Kāinga Ora plans to build an extra 350 state homes in Northland, 220 of which would be in Whangārei.
It has built 31 new homes in Whangārei since November 2017 while five projects are being worked on, including two in Raumanga.
A six-bedroom Fairburn St home was due for completion before the end of last year. Two other four-bedroom Tennyson St homes were due to be completed by the end of this month. A further 37 homes will be built on Puriri Park Rd in Maunu.
Anyone in need of housing assistance should visit the Work and Income website or call 0800 559 009 for more information and support.