Cost of living hits social housing tenants hard with $16 million missed rent owed to Kāinga Ora

Newshub can reveal the cost of living is so bad social housing tenants are struggling to pay their rent on time.

New figures show 9725 Kāinga Ora tenants are in arrears, with $16 million of missed rent owed. It is an increase of 80 percent since June last year.

At the Porirua Whānau Centre, it's all hands on deck packing up food donated by Kiwi Community Assistance.

New Zealand's cost of living crisis means more and more people need their services for everything from food parcels to financial advice. 

"Seems to be increasing every week now," Porirua Whānau Centre CEO Liz Kelly said. "These food parcels that we give enable them to be able to keep the power on because they don't have to make that choice."

In fact, the cost of living has spiralled so out of control that Newshub can reveal almost 10,000 social housing tenants can't afford their subsidised rent. 

"It tells me that they're struggling," Kelly said.

In just one year, the amount owed to Kāinga Ora in rent arrears has gone from just over $9 million to $16.3 million - a staggering 81 percent increase in debt. 

"We seem to be getting more referrals from clients of Kāinga Ora and essentially I think that's because we do provide a wrap-around service," Kelly said. "There's just not enough money to go around."

"It does speak to just how hard so many families around New Zealand are doing it at this time in a cost of living crisis," National Party's housing spokesperson Chris Bishop said.

The numbers show it really is the recent skyrocketing prices of just about everything that's seen missed payments escalate.

Rent payments to Kāinga Ora that are overdue by between one and six months have shot up  42 percent this year.

More than 97 percent of state housing tenants qualify for income-based rent. It's usually around 25 percent of what they earn, the rest of the market rent is topped up by the Government.

"For many people sadly, even subsidised rent, even very low-cost rent that people pay in Kāinga Ora housing, that is falling by the wayside because people are just finding it so hard to get ahead in life," Bishop said.

"It is tough but I am optimistic that New Zealand is really well-placed to get through what is an internationally difficult time," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

Kelly said her door will always be open.

"Thankfully there's a lot of organisations out there who are doing some really great mahi. Mahi to support our people."

No matter how tough things get.