Exclusive: Record amounts being spent on 'Band-Aid solution' motels for homeless

Figures obtained by Newshub show the Government has been forced to increase the number of motel units it's renting to house the homeless.

In the six months to June, $17 million was spent on emergency housing grants to get people into motels. On top of that, close to $44 million has gone on providing temporary accommodation. That includes signing contracts to use almost 600 additional motel units around the country.

But demand is continuing to increase, and the Government faces a problem, with motel supply in Auckland described as "largely exhausted" and other areas in a similar position.

Rebecca Kereopa's story is a tale of transient living - no home, no job and an abusive and complex past.

"I've been without a home for the past six months since I moved out of Manurewa," she says.

She's been in hotels since then.

"This will be my sixth one coming up. It's not good."

That's six months in rotating motel units, and Ms Kereopa says it's nothing like having a home.

"You're only in a room, not in a space, and I think it feels like it traumatises people."

But record amounts - tens of millions of dollars - are being forked out on motels.

"They're not our preferred options, but quite frankly they're delivering whānau and individuals a place to stay and stabilise their lives, which they otherwise wouldn't have," says Scott Gallacher, deputy chief executive of housing for the Ministry of Social Development (MSD).

The Government planned to rent 500 motel units this winter, but in the six months to June - so not including the coldest months - 592 motel units have been contracted around the country.

Auckland is most in demand, with 260 motel units under Government contracts, followed by the East Coast with 111 motel units. Then it's the Bay of Plenty, the Waikato and Canterbury, where 39 units are being rented.

"We are spending more than ever before on special needs grants and motels - that's how bad it is," Housing Minister Phil Twyford says.

Compounding the crisis, confidential planning documents obtained by Newshub say motel supply in Auckland, Napier, Hastings, Wellington and Tauranga is "close to saturation".

Ricardo Menendez-March, Auckland Action Against Poverty Coordinator, says "emergency and transitional housing does not address the issue of homelessness", labelling it a "Band-Aid solution".

MSD says it does have other options, including using seasonal worker accommodation, units on land at marae and homes in new developments.

"We are busting a gut to make sure we respond fully to all of that demand as much as we can," Mr Gallacher says.

Ms Kereopa says it takes too long to get a permanent home, and it's frustrating when more than 1000 state houses sit empty awaiting repairs.

"Just give the people the homes. I've seen a lot out there that are empty - what are they doing with them?"

With no immediate solution, for now Ms Kereopa is resigned to a life in limbo.