Cherise Thomas thought she would never leave Christchurch - until she faced living on the street.
Then, after eight months on the waiting list and a deadline to vacate her red-zone rental imminent, moving to Timaru no longer seemed such a bad idea.
The 59-year-old mother-of-10 and her partner, Tui Thompson, 72, moved into their first HNZ home in Timaru two weeks ago and say it is the start of a new chapter in their lives.
It is their third move since the September 2010 earthquake and - they hope - their last for a long time.
Hundreds of people on Christchurch's state house waiting list are being offered incentives such as free rent and fuel vouchers to move to where houses are available - in Timaru, Blenheim, Invercargill, Dunedin, Mosgiel, Gore and in the North Island.
Housing New Zealand Corporation (HNZC) is contacting its nearly 360 priority Christchurch applicants waiting for a home to see if they would shift to towns where houses were vacant.
South Island regional manager Symon Leggett said the idea was to ease the demand for Christchurch properties, particularly for those unable to move due to school, work and family commitments.
About 95 per cent of HNZ's Canterbury housing stock was damaged by quakes, with 5000 properties to be repaired and 350 green-zoned homes uninhabitable.
Any incentives depended on individual circumstances and mostly were related to financial assistance for the relocation itself.
This could include a week's free rent, moving costs, fuel vouchers and helping secure financial help from Work and Income.
"It was a case of, let's look outside the box and see what we can do to help these people," Leggett said.
Despite places such as Gore being a "tough sell", the response from those contacted had been positive.
About 20 families had already moved since April to Blenheim, Ashburton and Timaru. Those staying on the Christchurch waiting list could be waiting months, Leggett said.
"We simply have no indication of how long it's going to take to be housed."
Although 250 applicants had been housed in Christchurch in the past 10 weeks, there was a "constant stream" going on waiting lists. Fairfax NZ
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