Northland's housing crisis is going from bad to worse, with latest figures showing more than 400 people waiting to get into state houses and the situation showing no signs of abating.

Figures released this week by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development show 415 people were on the public housing register in Northland in the December quarter last year— an increase of 117 per cent compared with 191 people at the end of 2017.

The hike in Northland was higher than the national figure of 73 per cent.

More than 10,700 people were on the waiting list throughout New Zealand at the end of December 2018.

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In Northland, 224 people were on the register in Whangārei, 154 in the Far North, and 37 in Kaipara at the end of December 2018.

Statistics show 77 people who were already in public housing in Northland at the end of last year had requested and were eligible for a transfer to another property.

Over the same period, the Ministry of Social Development paid $221,174 in emergency housing special needs grant for short-term accommodation in places such as motels to those who were unable to access the government's contracted transitional housing places in Northland.

The amount supported 98 families which was a decrease from 119 compared with the September quarter.

Whangārei grandmother Ani Wright has just been taken off the social housing register, having found rental accommodation after spending two months in a motel with her two grandchildren and a further three weeks with a relative.

Carol Peters says the Government can and should put extra money into building more state houses in Northland. Photo/Michael Cunningham
Carol Peters says the Government can and should put extra money into building more state houses in Northland. Photo/Michael Cunningham

After she and her partner separated, Wright and her grandchildren, aged 1 and 3, moved into a one-bedroom house that had no hot water and a shared toilet.

She then went to the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) which helped her get into the social housing register.

"I never want to go into a motel again. A couple I met there said they had been there since March last year. I went inside and bawled my eyes out, thinking whether I'd done the right thing by going there."

She kept in touch with real estate agents and usually viewed three rental properties a week until she found a two-bedroom house in Maunu for $430 a week.

Wright said the number of people on that register was "quite shocking" and considered herself lucky she was on the list for only eight weeks.

"People are even sleeping in their cars. Maybe rental is so high and there aren't enough state houses. Maybe some people are not trying hard enough to find a place to stay," she said.

Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford said the hidden homeless the government warned about at the beginning of last year were now surfacing, with the housing register throughout New Zealand increasing to 10,712 in the December quarter.

He said an extra 1658 public housing places have been made available in the past year nationally and the government was pulling out all the stops to house those in need.

But Northland social housing advocate Carol Peters said the Government could and should put extra money into building more state houses.

"They put tonnes of money into the America's Cup. The Government is part of potential solution to this serious problem. The other thing is, unlike previously, people are coming forward and having their names on the housing register because they feel hopeful of getting housing," she said.

Carol Peters says the Government can and should put extra money into building more state houses in Northland. Photo/Michael Cunningham
Carol Peters says the Government can and should put extra money into building more state houses in Northland. Photo/Michael Cunningham

The Government last year approved $136.5m, including $22.5m to build the infrastructure on the Auckland waterfront, towards the America's Cup to be held in 2021.

Under the Public Housing Plan, 180 state houses will be built in Northland over the next four years.

Of those, 105 would be in Whāngarei, 65 in the Far North District and 10 in the Kaipara.