A Rotorua social worker has hit out, saying building more state houses in Rotorua "counts for nothing" if they are being filled by people from Auckland.

Figures released to the Rotorua Daily Post show 15 of Rotorua's state houses were filled by people from outside the region last year, while 141 local households currently sit on the wait list.

Visions of a Helping Hand social worker Louise Eria described the move as "disheartening", but the Ministry of Social Development says it looks at the country as a whole and considers where the greatest need is across all of New Zealand.

Eria said three of her clients got into state housing in the last three months.

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"These are people who had been in emergency housing for over a year."

The Government announced plans this month to build eight more state houses in Rotorua by June. There are 647 state homes in Rotorua, with a target of 727 by 2020.

"Seeing new state houses counts for nothing if people are just going to be coming from Auckland to fill them," Eria said. "These have to be for Rotorua people."

There were 59 applicants housed in Housing New Zealand NZ properties in the Rotorua area in 2017.

Of those, 44 were living in Rotorua at the time they applied, six were living in the wider Bay of Plenty region and nine came from elsewhere in the country.

Abby, who chose not to give her surname, has been on the social housing register since November 2016. She has two children under 5 and is pregnant with her third child.

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She is one of the 141 households in Rotorua on the waiting list for a state home. When the Ministry of Social Development took over the register in June 2014 there were 40.

"Getting a house would be a weight lifted. I could get a job and enrol my children in schools and daycare," Abby said.

"Whenever I call they always tell me they'll be in contact when a house becomes available, that I am a high priority. But I just keep waiting."

Abby said her son had been in four kindergartens in the past three years.

"I have lived in three refuges, two motels and a homeless shelter with my two kids."

Abby is not alone. Solo mother Dezire has found herself in a similar situation.

"It's not that we wanted to end up here. I was living in a one-bedroom cabin with two children, we had no running water and no toilet. It is hard to find accommodation."

Dezire has spent the last year without a fixed address.

"There are no words to describe how good getting a house would feel. It would make life just so much easier.

"People keep asking what school my baby will go to, but I don't know. I don't know if I can get a house or where that will be.

"There are times when I go to a viewing and just get looked at a certain way, as a solo mother on the benefit, but I do want to work."

Ministry of Social Development deputy chief executive of housing Scott Gallacher said priority for social housing was given to those with the highest need who didn't have alternative housing options.

"We look at the country as a whole and consider where the greatest need is across all of New Zealand.

"If people come to us for help with housing, we work with them to ensure we're getting the full picture of their needs and situation so we can provide the appropriate support.

"The Social Housing Register is constantly updated. People get to pick what area of the country they would like to live in."

He said placing people and families into homes was about matching them with the most appropriate house in the most appropriate region.

"We ensure they're assessed correctly and offered a property that matches their housing requirements. Our systems are dynamic and we take a national approach to housing.

"We regularly contact people on the register to ensure their circumstances are up-to-date and their assessment reflects any changes in their living situation – including locations [in which] they would like to live."