Just six households out of 187 have moved back to Auckland months after taking up a paid Government offer to leave the city.

Half of those who returned were now on the State Housing register and required to pay the Government back a combined total of $8000.

Those who returned to private housing were not required to pay back any of the money they got under the scheme.

The Relocation from Auckland Assistance grant, which began last June, offered up to $8000 to cover moving and establishment costs, paid out as two separate grants.

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The scheme was taken up by 187 households. Payments totalled just under $760,000 by December 31, Ministry of Social Development (MSD) data showed.

The aim was to free up state houses as Auckland's overheated market left many homeless and struggling to find affordable accommodation.

Last May then Minister of Social Development Paula Bennett announced state tenants or homeless families would be offered a "moving grant" of up to $5000, which would not need to be paid back.

A further lump sum offer of up to $2000 for those moving into state houses, or up to $3000 for those moving into private accommodation, was also available.

This "establishment grant" was to cover costs of setting up a household in a new city, such as school uniforms or bonds to power companies, MSD national commissioner Kay Read said.

"As long as the client, or any members of their household, don't return to the social housing register in Auckland within a year or spend the assistance on something other than what it was granted for, the establishment grant won't need to be paid back," Read told the Herald on Sunday.

"Of the households who returned to Auckland as at 31 December 2016, three have had to repay the establishment grant.

"Two households, who had moved to private accommodation outside Auckland, will need to repay $3000, while the other household, which moved to social housing outside Auckland, will need to repay $2000."

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The remaining households who have returned to Auckland moved to private accommodation and therefore did not need to repay this as the ministry was satisfied they had used the assistance for its intended purpose, Read said.

Just over a quarter of the 187 recipients, 50 households, moved from Auckland to the Waikato - the most popular destination.

Four of those have now left the Waikato, although ministry data did not show whether they had moved back to Auckland.

Northland and the Bay of Plenty took the next-highest numbers at 26 households each, and Wellington and the Central North Island received the lowest number of households with seven each.

Fourteen households moved to Canterbury, which had previously been targeted in a move to work scheme, where people were offered $3000 to move to Christchurch to help with the rebuild.

Only one household had since left the region.

Bennett initially said up to 150 households could be relocated, but this was expanded in December after high levels of interest.

The policy was criticised by Opposition leaders at the time as being a "scrambled" attempt to improve the housing crisis.

Last May, Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei called the policy "another short-term half measure" by the Government.

Associate Minister for Social Housing Alfred Ngaro said he was "really pleased" with the response to the scheme.

"The assistance isn't just about helping people find somewhere to live, it's about helping them to find a community that is the best fit for them."

Ngaro said 80 families had managed to find affordable private residences to live in in the city they moved to.

"We'll continue to offer the help to anyone who's looking for housing and a fresh start out of Auckland," he said.

Who moved where

• 50 households moved to the Waikato - four have since left

• 26 households moved to the Bay of Plenty - one has since left

• 26 households moved to Northland - all stayed

• 19 households moved to Taranaki - all stayed

• 17 households moved to the East Coast - all stayed

• 14 households moved to Christchurch - one has since left

• 11 households moved to Nelson - all stayed

• 10 households moved to the Southern districts - all stayed

• 7 households moved to the Central North Island - all stayed

• 7 households moved to Wellington - all stayed