A new Whangarei lobby group is calling for a fair deal for beneficiaries in the Budget this year.
Welfare Rights Whangarei has been formed by community workers from several agencies that help low-income people.
It says changes to benefits, including the rules about special needs grants, are causing hardship in the north, and further changes would hurt people already pushed to their limits.
Agencies including the Tai Tokerau Emergency Housing Trust are reporting an increase in people unable to afford rent or meet their basic living costs in the north.
It says there are fewer state houses available, and people who cannot afford them are being advised by Housing New Zealand and Work and Income to rent in the private sector.
The trust's Chrissie McLaughlin says a couple of years ago Housing New Zealand was able to house up to 70% of the people seeking help from the trust; now only a few end up in a state house.
Ms McLaughlin says many families forced to rent privately can't keep up with the rent, and end up being evicted and once again in need of emergency housing.