Exclusive: Record $365 million spent on emergency housing

Almost 10,000 Kiwis are currently living in emergency accommodation, including 4500 children.

The Government is blaming Covid-19 for the stubbornly-high figures in emergency housing.

"Throughout the first two quarters of last year, the number of people requiring emergency housing fell across New Zealand. However, following the move into Level 4 Lockdown in August, numbers began to rise again," Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni told 1News.

And she said as numbers rise, so too does the cost to Government.

Figures obtained by 1News show the five motels paid the most last year received more than $26 million for providing emergency accommodation.

The MCentral Apartments in Manukau received $6.9 million, Kerrs Motel and Homestay in nearby Wiri $6 million.

In Hamilton, Anglesea Motel and Hygate Motor Lodge got $5.2 million and $4.4 million respectively.

Napier's Bluewater Hotel received $4 million.

In total, the Government paid motels and hostels $365 million in the past year to accommodate those in need.

The Bluewater's hotel director Rodney Green told 1News they were providing accommodation for about 400 locals because the local rental market was diabolical.

"It's extremely tough, for the average person on the street there's no opportunity to get a rental house," he said.

Emergency housing.

He said his emergency housing tenants "treat the place like it's their home, most of them take their kids to school every day and go to work".

But the Greens' social development spokesperson Ricardo Menéndez March said motel and hotel owners have the Government over a barrel.

"In order for motels to stop ripping people off by charging so much money to provide unsuitable accommodation, the Government needs to provide enough public housing for everyone."

Sepuloni said the Government inherited a housing crisis and it would take time to build the number of extra state houses required.

"Until these are built, we will continue to ensure people have the option of a roof over their heads, and are not forced to sleep in cars or tents."

The latest figures show more than 400 families and individuals have been living in motels for between one and two years.