A growing number of families struggling to find permanent rental houses in Northland has forced the Ministry of Social Development to look at buying motels and other commercial accommodation.

Statistics provided by the ministry shows 157 families were waiting to get into state housing in Northland at the end of June while staying in emergency housing such as motels or with family and friends.

Taxpayers have forked out $478,973 between September 2016 and June this year on emergency housing special needs grants in Northland for the 157 families.

The money was paid by the ministry directly to accommodation providers.

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From the 91 families in temporary accommodation in Whangarei, 59 were identified as Priority A or people who are considered "at risk" and include households with a severe and persistent housing need that must be addressed immediately.

In the Far North, 44 of the 59 families waiting to get into state housing were assessed as Priority A while information for Kaipara was suppressed to ensure privacy of families.

A ministry spokesman said the Government was working with organisations such as the Te Runanga o Whaingaroa in Kaeo to provide temporary accommodation for needy families and individuals.

"We are considering a range of options to expand the supply of transitional housing in Northland, which could include purchasing motels and or other commercial accommodation," he said.

Kaitaia-based He Korowai Trust is currently housing 32 people in self-contained one bedroom units and a further three adults and nine children. Each family is paying $70 a week.

Chief executive Ricky Houghton said the situation was dire.

"It's going to get worse because the accommodation we're providing is for three months but, with no private rental properties up here, I've got no idea where they are going to go
to.

""It's so sad. I knew things were bad in the housing sector but didn't know it was this bad.

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"And it's going to get worse because the average yearly income in Northland is $21,000 and rents are $250 a week or up to 50 per cent of the weekly income."

Mr Houghton is looking at transporting homes that will be demolished in Auckland to Kaitaia to accommodate more families in temporary housing.

Tai Tokerau Emergency Housing Trust chairman Adrian Whale said the situation would get worse if more emergency housing was not made available in the next 12 months.

The trust was forced to turn away 109 adults and 249 children between July 1, 2016, and June 30 this year after taking 43 families into its flats.

Mr Whale said new ways of housing families such as allowing Maori to build on their land should be encouraged.

"We need more affordable rental accommodation so that families can have security of tenure. Apart from high rents, some families are given 90 days' notice to vacate when
investors buy properties the families have been living in," he said.