Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick has sent Housing Minister Megan Woods a strong message she's expecting a policy change to give assurances public houses built in Rotorua will be for locals.
The Government is still reviewing its public housing criteria over whether Rotorua homeless will have exclusive rights to Kāinga Ora homes built in Rotorua.
As the policy stands, those most in need are eligible for the homes - including those from outside Rotorua. The Rotorua Daily Post highlighted the policy six weeks ago, prompting a public outcry.
Woods indicated she would ask officials' advice but so far nothing has changed. She told the Rotorua Daily Post this week she was still in discussions over any changes.
"I am still seeking advice on this issue, and priority placement is being investigated as part of the emergency housing system review, that is currently under way."
Chadwick said at the time it was "absolutely my expectation" that public homes in Rotorua would be for locals.
The Rotorua Daily Post asked Chadwick who said it continued to be her expectation that homes being built in Rotorua were for Rotorua people and locals would be given preference through public housing allocation settings.
"I urge the minister to make this a very high priority and I would hope that this signals an upcoming policy change."
The Rotorua Daily Post asked Woods how long seeking advice would take but she was unable to give a timeline.
A major public housing building project is under way in Rotorua with an estimated 220 new public homes either under construction or being planned for Rotorua.
The first of the 37 homes at the Ranolf St and Malfroy Rd development will be ready by July or August.
In April, some locals demanded Government assurance no more out-of-town homeless would be allowed to come to the city and that new state houses would only be given to locals.
Kāinga Ora Bay of Plenty regional director Darren Toy confirmed at the time "most" people chosen for the new housing developments would come from Rotorua and surrounding areas.
Toy said in some cases, people might come from other areas for reasons such as returning to Rotorua because they used to live there or having local family, iwi or other support networks.
This month it was revealed just under a third (31 per cent) of those in emergency housing motels were not from Rotorua.
A Ministry of Social Development report, presented to the Rotorua Lakes Council on May 5, detailed where people were living one month before seeking emergency housing in 2021.
It found that 1121 people went through emergency housing in Rotorua in 2021. Of those 778 (69 per cent) were living in Rotorua a month before needing emergency housing or had previously lived in Rotorua.
A further 201 people, or 19 per cent, were from surrounding areas, including Whakatāne, Taupō, Tauranga, Kawerau and Ōpōtiki. There were 135 people, or 12 per cent, who came from other parts of New Zealand.
The same report found Rotorua made up 1.5 per cent of the country's population yet it housed 9 per cent of the country's emergency housing clients.
The demand for public housing has also soared as new builds have failed to keep pace. The report showed the Public Housing Register in Rotorua had increased by almost 950 applications since October 2016 yet the number of active public housing tenancies has only gone up by 161 - with 142 of those being provided by community housing providers.
Council district development deputy chief executive Jean-Paul Gaston told the council's meeting at the time the report was presented that Kāinga Ora had been encouraged to build more homes in Rotorua.
He said Rotorua needed 6000 homes by 2030, of which approximately 1000 should be public or affordable rentals.
"We have a below-average number of public homes. Less than 2 per cent when the national average is about 4 per cent. We are 1000 public homes short (now), let alone having a discussion about the scale of our emergency housing issue... We desperately need public homes."
The new houses
* Ranolf St/Malfroy Rd - 37 homes (stage one development)
* Quartz Ave (formerly Collie Drive) 37 homes (stage 1one development) plus five new homes being redeveloped on existing neighbouring Kāinga Ora sites corner of Quartz Ave and Homedale St
* 35 redevelopments on 10 existing Kāinga Ora sites
* Owhata Rd development 50-60 new homes
* Pukuatua St 24 apartments
* There will be 109 new Kāinga Ora homes available by early next year
* Iwi are delivering 29 new homes
* There will be 30 transitional housing units available on Fenton St
* During the past five years, there have been 73 public homes delivered in Rotorua.
Budget: $145m over four years on emergency housing
Funding of $145 million over four years was allocated to emergency housing in Rotorua in yesterday's Budget.
According to the Budget document, funding for the "Rotorua response" will pay for the "continued contracting of motels as emergency housing with wraparound support services".
It would also keep funding for Te Pokapu – the Rotorua Housing Hub, and for support services for people in non-contracted emergency housing motels.
The Budget document says the initiative provides "an immediate, place-based response to urgent housing need in Rotorua".
The home is split between two ministries. Housing and Urban development would get $31.54m in the first year of the budget, rising gradually each year to hit $33.82m in 2025/26 - a total of just over $130m.
Social Development would receive $3.917m a year, totalling just under $15.7m.