The Need in New Zealand

Housing issues in New Zealand affect New Zealand’s wealth, health and quality of life.


As a result of unaffordable housing, overcrowding issues and a poor housing stock 300,000 New Zealand families are living in unacceptable housing conditions.

New Zealand has some of the least affordable housing in the developed world

A recent international survey rated housing in New Zealand as severely unaffordable.1 360 Cities worldwide – of which eight are in New Zealand – were surveyed and ranked by affordability. New Zealand ended up at the bottom of the list, with Auckland being most unaffordable (347 out of 360) and Lower North Island slightly better (248 out of 360), but still seriously unaffordable. Even London was considered more affordable than Auckland.


Today a house could cost 6-8 times a household income

Rents and house prices in New Zealand have increased over the past twenty years at a much faster rate than household incomes. These days an average New Zealand house can cost six to eight times higher than household income, while three times is considered affordable.4,1

The high cost of housing keeps a family in a cycle of poverty

Housing is a significant element of the household budget and an important determinant of the standard of living. The high cost of housing keeps families in a cycle of poverty, as insufficient income is left to meet other basic needs such as food, clothing, transport, medical care and education.

Read more about affordability and the six dimensions of housing adequacy.


About 300,000 older New Zealand homes are un-insulated, damp and cold.

A large number of people on low incomes live in older housing stock, which are most often cold and damp.3 Lack of heating and insulation means that homes are ill-equipped to deal with winter temperatures. These poor conditions are linked to increased illnesses and infections, especially in young children. The flow-on effects from this unhealthy environment erodes families’ hope and self-worth, and impairs children’s ability to succeed in school. In addition cold, damp homes cost a lot to heat, which is unaffordable for many low income families.


10% of the New Zealand population lives in overcrowded homes

Many New Zealand families share their home with other families to save money, which leads to overcrowding. The most recent statistics show that 10% of New Zealand households are overcrowded2. Overcrowding is more common for Māori (23%) and Pacifica people (43%). Overcrowding also increases the risk of transmitting infectious diseases.

Another aspect that feeds overcrowding is the unaffordability of heating a home; children and other household members sleep in the same room to keep warm during winter which again stimulates diseases.

Read more about overcrowding and the six dimensions of housing adequacy.


Home ownership rates are decreasing

In 2013, 64.8 percent of households owned their home or held it in a family trust, down from 66.9 percent in 2006. In 1990 76% of Kiwi’s owned a home. By 2013 this number fell to just 63%.4

Living in a rental property may give someone a place to live, however these families may not be able to really make it their own, due to the contractual agreements that are in place. Length of tenure is often fixed and there is limited freedom to customise the home to personal preferences, such as colour, decoration or having a pet. In addition, owning a home is an investment in the future, it reduces future housing costs and gives security and greater stability. Achieving home ownership allows a family to stay in a neighbourhood for as long as they want and become an on-going contributor to their community.


New Zealand has one of the most restrictive rental terms and
conditions in the world

Based on a sample of international comparisons by the Grattan Institute, augmented by an analysis by NZIER for New Zealand, New Zealand has some of the most ‘restrictive’ rental jurisdictions from the viewpoint of the renter. Lease terms are short, tenants can be asked to move with short notice, leases can be terminated on almost any condition as long as notice is given, and personal customisation is often difficult (such as pets, minor alterations and decorations).4

Read more about preferred tenure and the six dimensions of housing adequacy.

Rental Conditions in selected countries
(source: The home affordability Challenge, NZIER (2014)
Rental conditions in selected countries, by NZIER



1. 10th Annual International Housing Affordability Survey (2013)
2. The Social Report – Ministry of Social Development (2010)
3. Our children, our choice, focuses on housing, Child Poverty Action Group (2014)
4. The home affordability Challenge, NZIER (2014)