The huge bill for emergency housing in the Bay of Plenty is largely due to a complete lack of state housing and picky landlords, one advocate says.

The Ministry of Social Development gave out 1900 emergency housing grants, worth a total of $1.5 million, to Bay of Plenty families in the last 12 months.

More than one third of those grants - 700 - were given in the last quarter to September to just 230 different clients.

Jena Young from Te Tuinga Whanau Trust said the organisation worked on the basis that people in need were expected to be able to obtain permanent housing within 12 weeks.


"What I'm finding is that that's not happening."

Tommy Wilson, also from Te Tuinga Whanau Trust, said there was no shortage of emergency accommodation for the trust's clients.

"We don't have anyone who doesn't have a place to stay tonight."

One of the major barriers to permanent housing was the reluctance of private landlords wanting to rent their homes to those in emergency accommodation, Ms Young said.

"They're perceived as drug addicts or people that don't pay their rent.

"We're trying our best to move these whanau on."

Most families ending up in emergency accommodation did not have large debts or a bad tenancy record, Ms Young said.

"The majority of our clients have come into this position due to 90-day or 42-day notices."


The difficulty in finding new rental housing within a short timeframe often led to a need for emergency accommodation, she said.

"There seems to still be a huge housing need. We're not placing them as quick as we want to be placing them."

Another was that people were unable to pay the high rents many landlords were asking for their properties.

Ms Young said there could be some people who had bad credit due to debts unrelated to rent or essential bills, such as those attached to failing to return DVDs to video stores, she said.

"I totally understand the need and the want for people to have good credit and good references.

"The struggle I have at the moment is there are a lot of families that need housing and we can't get them housing."

The median weekly rent in Tauranga in July was $460, up $30 from the same time last year.

One Mount Maunganui woman, who did not want to be named, said she was paying $500 a week in rent and was having to rely on foodbanks, despite working 35 hours a week.

Her partner worked 40 hours a week, she said, but after losing an accommodation supplement when they moved in together, they simply could not afford rent, bills and food.

"We were two single people with children and struggling a little bit but we were okay," the woman said.

They have three children between them and had to find a larger home, she said.

"It's so hard to find a house at the moment, we were lucky even to find that one."

Long waiting lists for state housing meant private rentals were the only option for most.

"Housing New Zealand have absolutely no houses," Ms Young said.

In June, there were 156 families on the waiting list for state houses in Tauranga alone.

The majority of these - 121 - were classified as Priority A, or those with a "severe and persistent housing need that must be addressed immediately".

Social Housing Minister Nikki Kaye said last month the Government was committed to building more social housing.

"Our social housing reforms are working for those in need.

"We've changed a system that was focused on simply providing a house, to one that is providing better-tailored, wraparound support to help people get back on their feet, while also increasing overall supply."

The Government would build more than 5000 new state houses over the next three years, she said.