Thirty homeless families in South Auckland will get new, modern houses this week, and working parents are among the first tenants.

The Monte Cecilia Housing Trust has built the 30 two-bedroom units and its new offices on the site of an old rest home in Windrush Close, Mangere, at a cost of $12.5 million.

They will be opened in a ceremony today led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, to coincide with World Homelessness Day.

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Monte Cecilia Housing Trust CEO Bernie Smith said just under 700 families, including 1623 children, sought help with housing in Monte Cecilia's last financial year, more than any other time in its 38-year history. It was able to help just over half of them.

The first tenants in the new transitional housing included families in which both parents were working but had little money left over after paying their housing costs.

"By the time they've paid their rent there's nothing left for food and power and petrol and other costs that might be incurred," Smith said.

Others were rough sleepers or came from run-down boarding houses which were considered risky for families with young children.

The 70sq m homes are fully furnished and solar-powered, and have fibre broadband and keyless, swipe-card entry. Tenants who are not working are obliged to attend financial literacy courses or job training, and to enrol their children with Plunket.

Smith said a private developer would have built twice as many units on the site and would have made them smaller.

"We decided we wanted a family facility, not a institutional-type facility," he said.

The 70 sq m units come fully furnished and include fibre broadband. Tenants are expected to attend job training and other courses if they are not working. Photo / Dean Purcell
The 70 sq m units come fully furnished and include fibre broadband. Tenants are expected to attend job training and other courses if they are not working. Photo / Dean Purcell

While the new transitional housing in Mangere would provide warm, secure, homes for people for up to 12 weeks, it was proving difficult to find them affordable rentals in Auckland they could move into.

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Monte Cecilia was leasing around 15 new properties a month, but was also losing around five rentals a month - often because property speculators wanted to take the higher payments they could get in emergency housing.

As a result, some families stayed in transitional housing for up to a year.

Joseph Paulo, 34, grew up in Monte Cecilia housing in the early 1990s. He has now come full circle, working as a security guard for the new transitional houses in Mangere.

Having emigrated from Samoa, his parents had struggled to get by in Auckland.

"All I remember is Dad would come home, take off his boots, have a shower and something to eat, put on his second pair of boots, and go back to work. He was working his ass off."

Jo Paulo's family was housed by Monte Cecilia when he was a child:
Jo Paulo's family was housed by Monte Cecilia when he was a child: "I am what I am because of them." Photo / Mike Scott

Monte Cecilia placed the family in houses in Hillsborough, Panmure, Glen Eden and Avondale until they had saved enough to buy their own home in Otara. The organisation left such an impression on him that he requested a visit to their old Monte Cecilia houses as a present on his 10th birthday.

"I am what I am because of them," he said.

The most recent comprehensive analysis of New Zealand's homeless numbers, based on the 2013 Census, found that New Zealand had around 41,000 homeless. An updated figure based on the 2018 Census is now being calculated.

Smith said the new units in Mangere would be turned into public housing "when this homeless crisis is over - if it is ever over".