Phiona Parkinson knows more than anyone how tough Rotorua's rental market is.

The mother of five has had to make big sacrifices since her rent almost doubled.

Late in 2016 Parkinson, her partner and children were served with a rental termination letter following her landlord's decision to sell his rental properties.

"We'd been in the house for 12 years and were paying $230 a week," Parkinson said.

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"Probably due to the length of time we'd been there, I admit I had no idea how expensive homes were to rent and how hard it was to get one."

As her March 17 move-out date loomed, Parkinson said her every waking minute was spent looking for a new home.

"By 2017 our family had increased from 2 kiddies to five which made things more stressful."

Trying to work fulltime while coping with house-hunting and little ones put an enormous amount of pressure on Parkinson, resulting in a diagnosis of depression.

"This meant I had to leave my job and we became a one-income family."

She has since returned to work on a part-time basis.

She said she lost count of how many house viewings she went to and was staggered to see the number of people turning up to each one.

"It was daunting, there were 20 to 30 people looking at homes that I knew were going to cost more than we could afford."

She finally found a home with a weekly rent of $450.

"$450 a week was basically one of our wages when we were both working fulltime, now it's just crippling."

Coupled with car repayments and living costs, Parkinson said she and her partner were getting deeper and deeper into debt each week.

"I've taken up budget advisory services, I've had help from Family Start, Work and Income and the Salvation Army, but our credit card debt is climbing – and I often think I guess we're one of the lucky ones to be in a position where we can borrow to get by."

Parkinson said Christmas last year was a dismal affair for the family.

"I was so grateful to my oldest daughter as she works part-time at a supermarket and she was able to buy her siblings a gift each. We were also invited out to Christmas lunch so there was a little festive joy – but it didn't stop me feeling like a failure as a mother."

Likewise when her son recently turned 2 it was his sister who bought him a birthday present, and it will be the same when her baby turns 1 next month.

"We've had to rely on family and friends to help. It's hard when you're earning minimum wage and know that you really need to work 40 hours to ultimately be paying someone else's mortgage.

"And then there's the vicious cycle – I can't get a mortgage of my own because I don't earn enough and I'm unable to come up with a deposit – so I have no choice but to pay someone else's mortgage."

Parkinson is currently house-hunting again in the hope she can find something in Rotorua that is more affordable.