Government smashes own record for amount spent on emergency housing as it opens hub to help Rotorua's homeless

The Government has again broken the record for the amount it spends on emergency housing.

It comes as officials open up a new hub in Rotorua aimed at helping the homeless.

The Prime Minister is unhappy with the situation but says it's better than people sleeping in cars.

There are few places as culturally Kiwi as Rotorua. It's also a city of adventures like the luge, mountain-biking and hot pools.

But it's also becoming known as a hotspot for emergency housing.

Housing Minister Megan Woods describes it as a "short- to medium-term solution" - but it's one that's costing the country millions more every year.

The cost of emergency motels has risen from just $6 million in the final quarter of 2017 to $19 million in 2018. That grew again to $48 million the next year and $82 million in 2020.

Then, in the past three months of last year, costs rose to $109 million - an increase of about $27 million in just a year. Overall in 2021, the cost was in excess of $350 million.

Woods was in Rotorua on Thursday opening a new housing hub. It's a one-stop-shop for people to visit when they need a home.

But Rotorua's not the only place with this problem.

Paora Hekenui is one of 10,000 Kiwis living in a motel room tonight. He's been in three emergency houses in the last three months alone and told The Hui the Government's short-term solution puts people like him in survival mode.

He's calling for proper housing.

"The situation we have been put in doesn't allow for growth - you're stuck in a place of survival," Hekenui said. 

"How are we supposed to get better when we're just living day by day? It doesn't make sense."

The need, though, is great - and for people of all ages.

Aaron Hendry of Lifewise said he'd heard young people say they feel safer living on the street because they're not feeling supported and are often in a space where there is a lot of chaos.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said ideally, New Zealand would not be using emergency housing at all.

"But I would still rather be using those facilities than having people in cars or garages or on the street," she added.

The Government says in Rotorua, 220 houses will soon be under construction to address the crisis - one that's getting more expensive as more Kiwis struggle to put a roof over their heads.