The lack of cheap accommodation is being blamed for a sharp rise in hardship assistance grants.
The latest Ministry of Social Development figures for the September 2018 quarter, released today, show that the number of people on a main benefit is steady from a year ago: 284,315 people receive a main benefit, or 9.4 per cent of the working-age population.
The impact of the Families Package, which came into effect in July and saw a rise in accommodation supplements, accompanied a fall in special benefits from 69,376 to 60,816 from a year ago - a 12 per cent decrease.
But there was an increase in those on hardship assistance payments, with 344,731 being granted in the quarter at a cost of $100.5 million.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
This was a 19 per cent increase from the 2017 September quarter, and a 72 per cent rise from the 200,455 hardship assistance grants that were given in the 2013 September quarter.
"A steep rise in the level of hardship assistance being given was expected and reflects the ongoing challenges for people seeking affordable accommodation," Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said.
"We know that many people are still struggling with finding somewhere to live, and the Ministry of Social Development is continuing to help many families with emergency housing grants. The figures also show that people know where to go for help when they need it."
She noted a decrease in benefit numbers in Northland and the East Coast, areas where the Government is trying to create jobs.
"Changes in the Auckland and Christchurch labour markets, particularly in the construction sector, were largely responsible for an increase in people on Jobseeker Support," Sepuloni said.
"We expect when large projects like Kiwibuild start to really ramp up, we'll have the right supply of workers with the right skills to fill jobs."
There was also a large decrease in sanctions, from 14,724 to 9504 in the past year. Sanctions are mainly applied for failure to attend arranged appointments.