A single mum with four children living in a motel is just one example of the thousands of New Zealanders in emergency housing.

Ministry of Social Development figures reveal the Government has spent nearly $50m on Emergency Housing Special Needs Grants in just three months.

By the end of the December 2019 quarter 30,941 of these grants had been issued, which is 15,265 more than for the same time period in the previous year.

The spend on these grants amounted to a whopping $48,125,062, up from $19,494,969 in December 2018.

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Those working on the ground with people desperate for a roof over their head put the soaring grants down to an increasingly strained rental market.

Figures released by Trade Me today show Wellington City is facing record-breaking rents after the median weekly price cracked $600 in December. The region is the most expensive to live in in the country.

Nationally, there was "unusually strong" demand in December with the number of enquiries on rental properties up 17 per cent on the previous year.

Wellington City Mission Community Programmes Manager Olivia Lange said the trend was alarming.

Families she was helping included those who'd moved to Wellington looking for a job and underestimated how difficult it would be to secure a rental, or those who'd lost their tenancy over summer and couldn't get back into the market.

On Friday they put a single mother and her four children in a motel, she said.

That type of living situation could be demoralising and made it difficult to establish routines, Lange said.

"When you're in a motel room there is no quiet space, there's no stability there because mum or dad don't know how long they're going to be in the space so they don't unpack belongings."

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Lange said their clients were not preferred candidates for rentals in hot demand.

"They don't generally have a stable income, they're not professional, they're not the young couple, they generally have a few children with them."

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said she wanted to ensure people were able to access their full entitlements. Photo / Mark Mitchell.
Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said she wanted to ensure people were able to access their full entitlements. Photo / Mark Mitchell.

National's Social Housing spokesman Simon O'Connor said the statistics were damning.

"The public housing waiting list is at a record high because the Government's poor housing policies have forced families out of their homes.

"Many motel owners are feeling the pressure of having to accommodate large numbers of homeless Kiwis."

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said she wanted to ensure people were able to access their full entitlements.

"That's what you're seeing here. We are stabilising people's situations, putting a roof over their heads, meeting their immediate needs so they can focus on getting into work."

"At any given time, we have many families, often with high needs and complex situations that are waiting for public housing. This is why the Government has already delivered 3,830 public housing places with another 1800 places under construction this financial year."