THE state provides social housing at affordable rents for those who are struggling to get a home by other means ...

Sounds simple - sounds like a good idea, in fact. But maybe that is no longer what happens.

While the national media report on the plight of Auckland's homeless on an almost daily basis (and there seem to be plenty of folk up there in need of state housing but who are going without), there are a few issues around housing in Whanganui.

And the concern is that, as Housing New Zealand sells off homes, the problem will get worse.

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Wanganui Housing Trust chairman Glenn Anderson says that Housing NZ is not meeting the needs of our community and he is not convinced by the agency's claim that demand here is "low".

His comments echo those of Steve Treloar, for 26 years manager of Whanganui Prisoners Aid and Rehabilitation Society (PARS).

Last month Mr Treloar told the Chronicle of the difficulties housing people who come out of Whanganui prison; often single men lacking a support network.

Neither Housing NZ nor Whanganui District Council's social housing had been any help for these former prisoners who, he said, were being set up to fail and end up back in prison.

To their great credit, both the Wanganui Housing Trust and PARS have come up with their own schemes for getting a roof over the head of those in need.

But are they doing the Government's job for it? And how well could they cope with any increase in demand?

Housing NZ runs the Government's stock of homes and has to return a dividend to the Government. So it has to operate on some kind of business model, which may not necessarily serve the needs of the community.

Eligibility for state housing is controlled by the Ministry of Social Development and there are suggestions the criteria has been made tougher to keep demand down.

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Even so, in Whanganui we had eight people chasing one one-bedroom state house, and we had 29 individuals or families listed as a priority by the ministry a time when there were just six properties available.

Something doesn't add up.