The Herald reported that in Whanganui the Salvation Army have a contract with the Ministry of Social Development that covers seven houses to accommodate people in need for 12 to 24 weeks.
“At the end of that time, we often struggle to find affordable housing for people to move to and it has been getting harder,” Mr Bell said.
“There is good rhetoric from Government to improve the situation but it won’t be a quick fix.”
A mother with an excellent tenancy record is among hundreds of Whanganui people struggling to find a rental property.
“I’ve been renting the same place for the past six years and now the owner needs to move back in,” said the woman, who does not wish to be named.
“It has been a real shock to learn how much rents have increased and how few places are available.”
Her current home has accommodated her family of five – consisting of an adult daughter with partner and their pre-schooler and the tenant’s 11-year-old son.
The timing has been tough, says the tenant.
“I have been on ACC payments after having surgery so my income is a bit up and down.
“And I don’t want my son to have to change schools at the moment.”
The woman said her landlord has been very accommodating but it has been impossible to find anywhere affordable and suitable.
“The owner has been wonderful – she gave us two months’ notice instead of the standard 42 days and she feels bad about having to move us on.”
The woman and her son will temporarily move in with other family members, while her daughter and partner have found a new rental property after a long search.
The squeeze on rental housing in Whanganui and other regions can be attributed to a number of causes, says new Housing Minister Phil Twyford.
“The previous Government have been instructing Housing New Zealand to sell off houses,” he said.
Another contributing factor is speculative buyers purchasing properties in the regions.
“The speculative frenzy that was happening in Auckland has now spread to the regions and that leads to a loss of affordable housing, and homelessness.”
Labour’s housing policy states that speculators will no longer be able to use tax losses on their rental properties to offset their tax on other income, a practice called negative gearing.
Mr Twyford says it is a move that has been recommended by the International Monetary Fund and the Reserve Bank.
He says Labour also has plans restore the social housing stock and Housing New Zealand’s focus on the needs of tenants, rather than just being “a glorified property manager”.
According to the last quarterly statistics gathered in June 2017, Housing New Zealand managed 560 properties in the Whanganui district and 12 of those were empty at the time.
“At that time, eight of those were under repair and likely to have since been repaired and let to applicants on the Ministry of Social Development [MSD] social housing register.”
There has been speculation that the relocation grant, offered to Auckland MSD clients to move to the regions, may have put pressure on Whanganui rental housing.
However the department’s deputy chief executive of housing, Scott Gallacher, said that was not the case.
“Since the grant was introduced in June 2016, to the end of June this year, 404 households have taken the opportunity to move outside of Auckland.
“Of these, nine have moved to Whanganui and found private accommodation opportunities.”
An online search of available rental properties in Whanganui this week showed 24 properties listed.
The cheapest was a one-bedroom house for $175 per week and the most expensive a five-bedroom house at $475 per week.