Families are spending an average of more than three months in emergency housing in Rotorua, new figures reveal.
But one social agency knows of people stuck in motels for nearly two years, and says the scenario creates ''a real sense of dread'' for families as they miss out on aspects of home life others may take for granted.
With a shortage of private rentals and 690 people on the waiting list for state housing in Rotorua, Government departments say efforts are being made to increase the supply.
On Wednesday, Housing Minister Megan Woods announced the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development had contracted 12 Rotorua motels to accommodate 260 families in emergency housing separate from other groups.
It is among the first in a series of big changes to how Rotorua's motels are used for emergency housing, which will also provide wraparound services.
Woods said the motels had been selected because they allowed the ministry to best provide for "longer-term whānau needs", with appropriate laundry and kitchen facilities and outdoor spaces for tamariki.
Figures provided by the Ministry of Social Development under the Official Information Act reveal people spent an average of 13 consecutive weeks in emergency housing in the Bay of Plenty between April 2020 and March 2021.
In Rotorua, however, people spent an average three-month stretch in emergency housing.
In Tauranga, it was 11 weeks and nine in the Western Bay.
The ministry said there was a significant increase in demand for emergency housing last year as it helped people isolate, and finding long-term accommodation wasn't easy, leading to longer stays.
Rotorua Salvation Army corps officer Kylie Overbye said there is "a real sense of dread" for many living in emergency housing.
She said the statistics did not reflect what her team saw, which was "quite a number" of people in emergency housing for up to two years - usually moving between motels.
"We all feel the effects of this crisis to varying degrees," she said. Tensions were heightened in the community, but significantly more for those in motels.
They don't have their own things around them and some don't feel safe going to sleep at night.
"Families are missing out on a lot of simple things we take for granted, like home baking, or having a safe garden for the kids to play and explore in, or a quiet zone for homework," she said.
"Many of us cannot truly know the gravity of what it feels like to live in this type of situation. We need to be mindful of this, and continue to show kindness and care towards one another as much as possible."
Recent figures obtained by the Rotorua Daily Post showed more people were entering into emergency housing, with $21,075,039 spent on emergency housing grants in Rotorua for 2049 clients between April last year and March.
There are 690 people on the waiting list for public housing in Rotorua, according to MSD's register.
Most - 666 people - were considered at-risk, with a severe and persistent housing need that must be addressed immediately. The rest had a serious housing need.
Rotorua Budget Advisory Services manager Pakanui Tuhura said more work needed to be done with people in emergency housing to prepare them for when they come out.
The service had several new clients living in emergency accommodation and was helping them plan for higher accommodation costs once they moved into permanent housing.
He said the requirement for those in emergency housing to pay 25 per cent of their income was more affordable than market rent, which allowed people to try to build their savings.
Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency chairwoman and Rotorua Lakes councillor Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said the "catastrophic" situation had been caused by years of ignoring the growing demand for mental health support, people unable to survive on benefits, and a lack of suitable housing for those in low-wage jobs.
She said the situation would become the norm unless people demanded direct input into where time, effort and money was directed.
Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services executive director Tommy Wilson said housing needed to become more affordable for anything to change.
"There's nowhere to go, there is no next place."
Simon Anderson, managing director of Realty Group Ltd, which operates Eves and Bayleys, said he expected the need for emergency housing to grow if nothing was done to address housing supply.
Anderson said a low supply of houses on the market increased competition for rentals. People were making investment decisions to protect their return through rents.
"The ultimate challenge is the supply of affordable housing."
Ministry of Social Development housing general manager Karen Hocking said a "critical shortage" of housing in the Bay led to a high, ongoing need for emergency housing.
But motels were better than sleeping rough or in a car, garage or crowded house.
She said case managers worked intensively with people in emergency housing to try to find and keep a suitable home, including referring them to third-party help if needed.
Clients were expected to make a "reasonable effort" to find accommodation.
Those moving into private rentals could be supported through the Accommodation Supplement, Temporary Additional Support, tenancy bonds and rent in advance.
A Ministry of Housing and Urban Development spokesman said the Government was taking a deliberate, MAIHI and place-based approach in Rotorua after investment in "critical" collaborative planning with Te Arawa and Rotorua Lakes Council to develop and create housing solutions.
New building consents were low and new construction had not kept pace with increased growth. Strong population growth across the region wasn't matched by new houses.
A shortage of available land to develop has significantly increased median rents and put pressure on public and emergency housing, meaning more lived in "severe" housing deprivation.
Tauranga and Rotorua were identified as priority areas in the public housing plan and he said the Government was also working with communities to understand and respond to broader supply constraints.
Intensification and opportunities to build more public housing would be possible through recent district plan changes, supported by an urban growth partnership.
Local authorities and developers in the Bay can also seek funding through the Infrastructure Acceleration Fund, announced by the government this week. Expressions of interest open from June 30 with Kainga Ora.
Changes to emergency housing in Rotorua
• Government to directly contract motels.
• Wraparound social support services to be provided.
• Grouping of cohorts like families and tamariki in particular motels separate from other groups.
• One-stop Housing Hub for access to services and support to be established.
Public Housing Plan 2021-2024 - next steps for Rotorua:
• $55m shovel-ready investment to unlock land for development
• Work with council to give effect to the National Policy Statement - Urban Development for future growth
• Kāinga Ora has scaled up its build programme and is progressing further opportunities