People who receive a Government grant of up to $5000 to move away from Auckland will have to pay it back if they return to live in the city within a year, officials say.

The relocation grant will be available to prospective social housing tenants from Monday and is designed to ease pressure on housing in the city.

More than 130 people had already expressed an interest in taking up the grant and moving to the regions, Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett said today.

"For those people who may want to move to cheaper regions where they may have family and other support networks, this grant will remove the cost barrier that may be preventing them from making the move," she said.


The size of the voluntary grant would depend on how far people were travelling, the size of their family, and how many belongings they had.

A Ministry of Social Development spokesman said an additional $2000 or $3000 could be paid to the tenant to help them settle into their community.

They would not have to pay it back as long as they did not spend it on other things or return to the state house waiting list in Auckland within 12 months - except for exceptional circumstances.

The scheme, announced in January, was originally targeted at people on the social housing register.

It was extended to homeless people last month as the Government went into damage control over its handling of housing problems in New Zealand.