One Tauranga motel made more than $250,000 in three months in emergency housing grants.
But the general manager says if their decision to house the homeless was solely about the money, they could have doubled the amount they received by leasing out more rooms.
Figures released to the Bay of Plenty Times under the Official Information Act reveal which motels in the city are earning the most from the emergency housing and special needs grants scheme.
The Ambassador Motor Inn on Fifteenth Ave was the highest earner, being paid by the Government $253,945 between March 1 and May 31 this year.
The amount equated to, on average, just over $21,000 a week. That figure was for 75 grants covering 34 distinct clients (which could be an individual or a family).
The next highest earner was Cobblestone Court Motel which was paid $141,814 for 40 grants followed by Roselands Motel which was paid $118,246 for at least 35 grants.
The top five accommodation providers combined received more than $700,000 in grants for the three-month period.
The Ambassador Motor Inn general manager Kerry-Anne Howlett said she did not take on any extra homeless clients during lockdown and the grants received over that period were for clients already living in eight of her units long-term.
Howlett said she refused to lease her remaining 12 units to the Government for the homeless as the money she would have gained would have had to go back into renovating the units after the clients left.
"I would rather have those units empty than have them trashed. I was approached by the ministry with a three-month contract over lockdown, which I turned down.
"We had the potential to make more money but I didn't feel that it was worthwhile. I like knowing who our long-term tenants are."
Howlett said the only extra clients she took during that three-month period was an essential forestry worker and two hospital patients who needed to use the motel's disability units.
"The money in grants we did receive over lockdown obviously helped keep people in jobs and put a roof over the heads of those we did take in.
"For many motels in the city, those grants were the only way they were able to keep afloat during lockdown, whether or not they're paying for it now, I don't know."
Omokoroa Kiwi Holiday Park received $117,582 for a total of 57 grants and 29 distinct clients.
Owner-operator Sharon Addison said she was sceptical taking on the contracts at first, but it was a good business decision and she was proud to be able to provide a safe environment for those in need.
"That money meant I was able to keep all my staff employed and I have even hired more.
"We did have one or two issues but no more than what we would normally have with the general public.
"We had families staying with us where both the parents were working but had to leave their homes because the rent got too high. It's really sad, these are not just people who are down and out.
"The people we've had stay with us are diverse. We had people who weren't able to go back to their home countries over lockdown, we had families, kiwifruit workers. The public shouldn't tar everyone with the same brush."
Addison said during lockdown, it was "doom and gloom" for the accommodation industry so the decision had to be made whether to make some money or make no money.
"There was a bit of coercing by Work and Income, a bit of pulling on our heartstrings but I also wanted to keep all my staff employed."
Addison said she was surprised the Government had not bought its own motels, which she believed could be more cost-effective.
Labour's Waiariki MP Tāmati Coffey said the Government had been clear that protecting the health of New Zealanders against Covid-19 was its top priority.
"That includes ensuring people without a secure whare of their own have somewhere to stay in their time of need.
"We don't want families sleeping in parks or in their cars, let alone at a time like this where being able to self-isolate is so crucial to your health, your kids, and that of our wider community."
He said the grants were for a maximum of seven nights at a time, which aimed at encouraging clients to continue to search for more long-term, sustainable housing options.
Coffey said the Government had boosted its state housing building plan by spending an extra $570 million in Budget 2020 on creating 8000 more public housing spaces and transitional homes across New Zealand over the next four years.
"We owe it to our next generation, to keep our foot on the gas, and keep this momentum moving in terms of being kind and working in partnership to create more sustainable housing options for our people."
Tauranga MP Simon Bridges said it was "tragic" people were being accommodated in motels rather than in permanent housing.
"Sadly, little has been done in public housing in Tauranga over the last three years.
"National would get cracking on converting our hundreds of old state houses, which are often in real disrepair, into modern, fit-for-purpose homes.
"Gate Pa through to Greerton would be where we would start. In addition, we'll repeal and replace the RMA and get on with transport which will free up land around Tauranga out Papamoa East and to Tauranga's South and North.
"This will allow the building of many thousands more homes."
Labour list MP Jan Tinetti said the welfare of people and families who required help was a priority for Government, "especially as we navigate the unprecedented times of this global pandemic".
"When people come to the Government with an urgent need for housing, we support them to find a warm, dry, secure place to stay.
"We don't want anyone sleeping rough or in their cars. That's why we've delivered 110 new public housing places and 88 transitional housing places in Tauranga since 2017, and why we will deliver more than 18,000 state and transitional places across New Zealand by 2024 to provide people with secure, warm and dry homes."
The owner of Cobblestone Court Motel and Roselands Motel did not respond to requests for comment.
The owner of Summit Motor Lodge declined to comment.