Fears of an emerging "motel generation" are beginning to grow in Hawke's Bay as the number of children living in emergency accommodation spikes.
Ministry of Social Development data revealed to Hawke's Bay Today shows there are now 3888 children living in emergency housing nationwide – 225 in Hawke's Bay alone.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Hawke's Bay Today that while alternatives to emergency housing are sometimes worse, the Government is not satisfied with the current arrangements.
However, Ardern said she did not believe that a "motel generation" of children would be part of her legacy as Prime Minister.
Assistant Māori commissioner for children Glenis Philip-Barbara said NZ was now teetering on the brink of a generation raised in motels.
She said every child, no matter their background, deserves to grow up with a whānau that has what they need to thrive.
"It's extremely difficult for tamariki living in motels, whether they're in Hawke's Bay or elsewhere, because it's impossible to make a motel room a real home.
"Tamariki can't put pictures up in a motel room, put down roots in a community or do any of the things kids usually do in a real home."
Barnardos Hawke's Bay and Gisborne service manager Joan-Ella Ngata has also raised fears for the long-term consequences of motel living.
"My concern is, with this motel-generation of children, that they won't actually have stability or know what it's like to have a solid foundation - somewhere they can call home," she told RNZ.
"Research has proven that when you have stability as a child, that helps you with what trials and tribulations you face as an adult."
As of December 2020, Napier (741) led the way with the highest number of people on the Housing Register in Hawke's Bay, followed by Hastings (706), Wairoa (85) and Central Hawke's Bay (68).
Napier (168) also topped the charts with the highest number of children on the emergency housing waiting list in the region, followed by Hastings (30), Wairoa (15) and Central Hawke's Bay (12).
Napier mayor Kirsten Wise said while she was saddened that children are living in temporary accommodation, it's preferable to being homeless.
She said the Government's building projects aim to create a generation that not only is housed when they're growing up, but has a chance of owning their own home too.
Mayor of Hastings Sandra Hazlehurst said the growing numbers of children living in motels ties into child poverty.
According to Hazlehurst, there are more than 800 people living in motels in Hastings and 637 on the emergency housing list.
"There are babies now being born in motels. It breaks my heart to see families being raised in motel units without the normal standards of living that everybody else enjoys."
Hastings District Council says it's working with Government and iwi through their Hastings Place Based Plan, as well as building homes and working with iwi to develop Papakāinga, with 221 homes by the end of the year.
Of these developments, the Tarbet St subdivision will provide 18 social houses and 17 affordable homes in the next 16 months, with the sections targeted at first-home buyers nearly sold out.
According to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Napier is top of all territorial authorities for public housing register numbers per capita.
A HUD spokeswoman said population growth in Napier – which increased 9 per cent between 2013 and 2018 – has outpaced construction, while the Napier floods in 2020 also impacted available space.
MSD acting regional commissioner for social development Karen Bartlett said there is a shortage of affordable housing in Hawke's Bay, with applicants often with high needs.
Bartlett said after a family's urgent need for accommodation has been taken care of, then a more suitable option can be explored when available.
A HUD spokeswoman said Napier and Hastings are two of nine areas in the Public Housing plan, which aims to invest in regions where there is the most urgent need for public and transitional housing.
"Since 2019, Kāinga Ora have delivered about 30 homes in Napier, with more under way," she said.
"There are currently around 80 homes in the feasibility, procurement or construction stage, and under the Government's public housing plan, up to 250 homes across Napier are expected to be delivered by 2024."