The Government spent $122,611 on 122 emergency housing grants in Whanganui during the final quarter of 2020.
That compares to the final quarter of 2017 when there were 16 emergency housing grants paid at a cost of $4939, according to figures obtained by the Whanganui Chronicle.
But while in Whanganui this week Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the spend was simply indicative of the government ensuring people had a roof over their head, even if it was a motel.
The Chronicle has also asked the Ministry of Social Development how much was spent on emergency housing in each quarter over the past five years.
The figures obtained show Astral Motel on Somme Parade was paid a total of $137,656 by the MSD for emergency accommodation in the period between December 2017 and December 2020.
Anndion Lodge on Anzac Parade received $26,301 from the ministry, while Coachmans Motor Lodge, Wanganui Seaside Holiday Park, and The Grand Hotel all provided emergency accommodation at points over the period, each receiving less than $20,000.
Speaking to the Chronicle, Ardern said the use of motels was simply a short-term solution.
"No one is saying that we want anyone in a hotel long-term. No one wants that," Ardern said.
"We've said time and time again, a housing crisis builds over decades, we're not going to solve in a day, and I would rather have people housed, I would rather have them accommodated in a safe space, than the alternative."
Ardern also said the latest figures she had seen had "come back a bit" but didn't provide any further detail.
Nicola Willis, the National Party's spokeswoman for social housing, said the figures were representative of a government that hadn't fulfilled its promises.
"All it shows is the extraordinary failure of Labour's housing policy. Each of those people is needing a motel because they've either been squeezed out of a private rental market, or they're unable to access other housing."
"Labour came to government promising to solve New Zealand's housing challenges and build 100,000 Kiwibuild homes. They've demonstrably failed to do that, and now we have thousands of people paying the price."
Social housing not keeping up
The information comes alongside other data detailing the demand for social housing within the Whanganui District.
The social housing waiting list grew more than 300 per cent - skyrocketing from 78 on the register in December 2018 to 332 at the end of 2020.
According to Ministry of Housing and Urban Development data, at the end of 2018, there were 530 public housing tenancies across Whanganui.
Two years later, at the end of 2020, that number only grew to 548 - an extra 18 tenancies in total, or an increase of 3.4 per cent.
Public housing tenancies includes Kāinga Ora and community housing provider tenanted properties that are either subsidised through the income related rent subsidy, or where the tenant is paying market rent.
Ardern said the government's work in building social housing is still ongoing.
"This is not the completion of our plans in public housing," she said.
"We've already said we want to go to 18,000 public houses across the country by 2024. We are on track currently, but we know this is one of the regions where we know we need to increase the numbers."
Ardern argued her government had done work on ensuring people can actually sign up to the register, which she alleges wasn't as simple under the previous government.
"You couldn't get on the list before we came into government. You just couldn't. What we see now is the reality, so I won't apologise for the fact that we will say, tell us what your need is."
Ardern accepted that the public housing waiting list wasn't always representative of the true need that exists in the community, even under her government.
"With the list that we have, that doesn't necessarily tell us all of the need that there is. Not everyone who is in housing need will put themselves on a public housing waiting list."
"People have to feel that there is value in coming to tell us they have housing need. Otherwise, you just have governments that manipulate the numbers but just don't help people."
An earlier version of this story said Whanganui River Top 10 Holiday Park had been contacted for comment on the amount it was paid for emergency housing; however, this was not correct. Owner Jeannie Kay says her business does not provide long-term housing and only occasionally provides emergency housing for one or two nights while people seek other accommodation. The Chronicle regrets the error.