Tens of thousands of New Zealanders returning home from overseas has put even more pressure on the housing shortage in Northland.
Those already struggling to find somewhere to live are now competing with returning Kiwis, who in some cases are more skilled and more financially able.
An emergency housing centre with 37 rooms in Kaitaia is full, with a waiting list of 80 homeless people.
“We’re seeing multitudes of people come up to the Far North, they're looking for safety, they're escaping the fear of Covid, they've come back into the country, they've come from all over other regions to come back home,” says Ricky Houghton of He Korowai Trust.
And one Kaitaia real estate agent says there are no properties on the market in the town.
“There’s only one house available in Kaitaia at the moment, it's three-bedroom - the rent on it is $500 a week,” says Ray White’s Keri Hokai.
“On top of the natural net migration of people moving into the area for lifestyle, there’s a lot of ex-locals moving home as well,” she says.
New Government Covid-19 recovery legislation will enable the fast-tracking of some Māori housing developments like He Korowai Trust in Kaitaia.
The development has more than two dozen rent-to-own homes; the new bill will enable more homes to be built several years earlier than anticipated.
But there is no short-term relief in sight and few other options. Even a bedroom at a local hotel costs $280 a week.
”The people that are coming back generally have more skills, they have more money than those that are currently sitting on the waiting list, so landlords are able to cherry pick,” Houghton says.