A building boom in Whanganui has come at the right time for a city facing a housing squeeze due to growth.

Whanganui District Council issued 951 building consents in 2018, which was up nearly 100 on the previous year, and 200 more than in 2013.

The previous highest number of consents issued in the last six years was 862 in 2016.

The growth has been largely driven by residential builds with 126 new dwellings consented in 2018, slightly up on 2017, but more the double the 56 homes consented in 2013.

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Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall said the numbers "probably reflect how a lot of people are experiencing Whanganui at the moment", and a strong economy.

"It's busy," he said.

He was not surprised the building rates had been steadily increasing since 2013.

"I think with the global financial crisis a lot of people went shy on investing in new buildings so it probably reflects a positive outlook for the economy over the last four or five years."

McDouall said it was "fantastic" the growth was led by residential dwellings.

"This means the rates burden will be spread wider. It really reflects that Whanganui is a pretty desirable place and that's exciting."

In December, a Housing Snapshot Report compiled by Safer Whanganui revealed housing in the city was heading to crisis point with social housing waiting lists ballooning, the private rental market being squeezed and people sleeping in cars.

It prompted Whanganui District Council to begin to develop strategy covering all aspects of housing from emergency to home ownership.

That was after the council opened up 50ha of rural lifestyle land to the residential zone on the south side of State Highway 3 either side of Tirimoana Place.

That move, as part of the Otamatea West plan made room for up to 500 new properties.

The council has also begun the process of re-zoning land out towards Mosston Rd as residential.