Taxpayers are forking out more than $2 million a year in temporary accommodation for Northlanders.
A spike in the number of families being billeted in non-traditional shelters like hotels and motels has contributed to hiked costs for taxpayers.
Figures released by the Ministry of Social Development under the Official Information Act showed $2.05m was spent in Emergency Housing Special Needs Grants in 2020 followed by $2.2m last year - utilising only hotels and motels in Northland and Auckland.
Spending on individuals and families housed in hostels, holiday parks, campgrounds, Women's Refuge, and other places nearly tripled over that same period.
The ministry paid out $230,925 to those accommodation providers during the first three quarters of 2020. The figure spiked the following year with $665,375 paid out in the same timeframe.
Northland Housing Forum convener Tim Howard wasn't surprised at the amount spent in temporary accommodation each year.
"There's real pressure on community groups and questions around the quality of care in these temporary accommodations," he said.
"However, an advantage is people are being taken off the streets. There's choking going on at the emergency housing end, especially a shortage of transitional housing."
Howard said there needed to be a more specific response to the need in Whangārei.
"... and while there are expensive developments going on, they won't address the real need. They will target people's wants."
According to Howard, the 1000-plus people on Northland's social housing register was the tip of the iceberg.
He said that was because it didn't account for those living in cars or couch surfing, who weren't registered with Kāinga Ora.
The highest quarterly sum spent over the two years in Northland was $1.1m in the December 2021 quarter. That was on hotels and motels only.
An additional $195,524 was spent on other accommodation types such as hostels, holiday parks, campgrounds, and Women's Refuge.
Ministry regional commissioner Graham MacPherson said Northlanders stuck in other regions during Covid lockdowns had been helped with temporary accommodation.
He said the ministry had occasionally assisted people to relocate outside of Northland at their request and the move was treated as a temporary measure.
"In doing this, we make sure that there is sufficient support in the region they are relocating to, and that we have their express approval."
Ministry group general manager housing Karen Hocking said demand for houses was generated by a shortage of affordable housing that drives up house and rent prices.
She said people on low incomes were the most affected.
The Emergency Housing Special Needs Grant is available to people who cannot remain in their usual place of residence, if any, and do not have access to other adequate accommodation.
Assistance is generally granted for up to seven nights but can be extended depending on individual circumstances.
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Kāinga Ora are responsible for increasing the supply of affordable and public housing in Northland.
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.
Anyone in need of housing assistance should visit the Work and Income site or call 0800 559 009 for information and support.