Tauranga has four transitional housing providers providing temporary homes for some of the city's most vulnerable families. But a transitional place is not meant to be a long-term home - just a safe place to stay when you have nowhere else to go until you can come up with a more permanent plan. But for one family, their history and circumstances - combined with a tight rental market in Tauranga and undersupply of social housing - have left them trapped at the transitional stage, unable to find a landlord to give them a second chance at a home to call their own.
A working family described as "dream tenants" say they have had 532 rental applications rejected in 19 months.
The Tauranga family of two adults and four children has been trapped in transitional housing all that time, but say their family size and $50,000 in debt mean they have no chance in the private rental market.
Now a social agency is pleading for a landlord to give them a second chance.
Sitting on a couch at the Tauranga Salvation Army Family Centre in Cameron Rd, Brenda Newman wiped away tears as she recounted her situation.
Juggled her 11-month-old daughter Mystory on her knee, the mother of eight said she had three children and one grandchild still at home.
Both she and her partner worked - she does night shifts in retail and he did day shifts in scaffolding.
Newman said the constant rejection from landlords was "disheartening, downgrading and disappointing".
"We have applied for, on average, six houses a day seven days a week for the past 19 months so that is 532 housing applications. It feels like the walls are closing in on us with no light at the end of the tunnel.
"Then I have to go to work facing people with a happy smile on my face like my life is just great and I don't have any worries."
Newman said the family had to leave their rental property in Welcome Bay as it was the landlord's retirement home.
They spent several months in transitional housing in Opal Dr before moving into a Salvation Army house a year ago.
She believed their old debts - about $50,000 worth - and number of children were counting against them despite good references.
The debts came from student loans, power bills, hire purchases, a car that was voluntarily returned and furnishing a house in Auckland that burnt down, as well as from general costs of living.
"Everything that has happened is a result of my own choices, no doubt. But it has been necessary for our living and nothing has been ridiculous or unnecessary."
Newman was chipping away at the debt and her budget adviser had applied for insolvency on her behalf.
Finding somewhere to call home would be better than winning the lottery, she said.
"We could get our things out of storage and be able to feel normal again and have dignity."
Salvation Army Tauranga Housing Tenancy manager Garth Collings said Newman and her family were "dream tenants" who paid their rent on time and kept the property spotless.
Salvation Army Tauranga community ministries manager Davina Plummer said all of the organisations 66 transitional housing spaces in Tauranga were full.
The average stay was 42 weeks but Newman's was more than 52 weeks.
''We are prepared to back this family, yes they have made mistakes but they have come a long way.''
She said the family needed a private rental as they did not meet the criteria that would see them prioritised for permanent social housing.
Plummer said more wage earners like Newman were seeking housing but "many landlords and tenancy managers are seeking 'professional couples' as tenants".
"In our experience, those who fall outside that description fall down the ranking of desirable tenants, thereby being discriminated against and they struggle to gain viewings or opportunities to rent."
She said the Salvation Army was always seeking long term rental properties for whānau to move into from transitional housing. They would continue to have wrap-around support.
Tauranga Rentals owner Dan Lusby said some landlords in the private sector may discriminate against children and his agency would usually dismiss potential tenants if they had debts for not paying rent.
"But in the scheme of things honestly, $50,000 is not a lot of money. I know lots of people who have half a million dollars of debt in mortgages. If [the family] can afford to pay the rent going forward they should be taken into consideration as possible tenants."
Tommy Wilson from Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust said his team had real estate agents ringing asking for tenants, some of whom were being evicted by the same agents not that long ago.
"What is different now is we have helped them to become better tenants and that is key."
Wilson said Te Tuinga had limited resources and had to make tough calls when deciding which families it could help.
"We can only help the families that want to help themselves... we have to say 'yes we can help you because you deserve help' or 'I'm sorry our kindness or empathy is best directed at the other families'. If we can't help them they are pretty much at the mercy of the community to find them somewhere to live."
Te Tuinga Whanau had 37 properties in Tauranga, housing about 60 families.
Shirley McCombe from Budget Advice Tauranga said it was very easy to rack up debt if people borrowed from a lender that charged high interest rates and big penalties for missed payments.
Debt was hugely stressful, she said, and could prevent people from getting a rental or a job.
"It affects well-being, mental and physical health, relationships, job security, family security and wellbeing.
"There needs to be a limit on the amount of interest a lender can charge and the penalties that can be imposed. There is legislation to ensure all the information is available but for many clients, they do fully understand the impact."
Last year the Government proposed a bill that would strengthen responsible lending laws, including adding a cap on interest charges. It was still working its way through the Parliamentary process.
Scott Gallacher, programme delivery deputy chief executive for the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, said more houses were needed in Tauranga.
The Ministry was working with Housing New Zealand, registered community housing providers and others to increase public housing supply over the next four years.
Transitional housing was not intended for long-term living but was a way to keep people safe and housed when they had nowhere else to go until a longer-term home was secured.
Tauranga has four transitional housing providers and about the same number of social housing providers, of which Accessible Properties Tauranga is the largest.
General manager Vicki McLaren said Tauranga was one of the most unaffordable cities in the country and housing demand was huge.
"Wait lists are high, and housing providers are constantly trying to get ahead of it."
The organisation had 1144 houses and was building 28 more, including 17 two-bedrooms, 10 four-bedrooms and one six-bedroom.
Housing New Zealand managed another 192 social houses in Tauranga and aimed to deliver 150 more by 2022 with community housing providers.
According to the Ministry for Social Development, there were 281 applicants on the waiting list for social housing in Tauranga in the year to March, up from 261 in the last quarter of 2018.