Housing is an important determinant of health and wellbeing. There are three main elements to housing: affordability, availability, and quality. Affordable housing is usually defined as housing (rented or owned) that costs no more than 30 percent of a household’s gross income . Affordability and availability are closely linked. Where housing supply is low and demand for houses is high, market prices increase. People with limited income may find it more difficult to obtain suitable housing, and changes in relative levels of affordability can also affect the demand for different types of housing . The quality of housing has a strong influence on health and wellbeing outcomes for individuals, whānau, and communities; housing influences social relationships within and beyond the household [3,4]. Good quality housing is warm and dry and provides sufficient space and amenities for the occupants. It also protects the occupants from noise, air pollution (such as second-hand tobacco smoke, emissions from open fires and un-flued gas heaters), and other environmental exposures (such as vibration from heavy transport movements).
Good quality housing can reduce the risk of poor physical and mental health, reduce the number of trips and falls, reduce the number of school days lost to illness, contribute to improved educational attainment, and reduce visits to the GP and other health and social care services [5-9]. Taking a broad view, the quality of housing includes not just the physical structure, but also features of the surrounding area such as access to education, employment, retail outlets, access to transport routes and interchanges, proximity to green spaces and other community amenities, and population density.
Key trends within housing
The supply of good-quality, affordable housing has been considerably disrupted in greater Christchurch by the Canterbury earthquakes. Housing continues to be affected by repair, rebuild, and other quality issues that are yet to be fully resolved. Housing affordability for potential first home buyers and renters was notably poorer in Christchurch City (compared with New Zealand overall) during the immediate post-earthquake period (2010–2013) due to supply-side pressures, as many homes were left uninhabitable. These supply-side pressures have now stabilised or reversed and household incomes have trended upward in greater Christchurch over the past few years, resulting in generally more favourable housing affordability (compared with New Zealand overall). Household crowding is also notably lower in Canterbury compared with New Zealand overall. Survey data indicate that most people in greater Christchurch are satisfied or very satisfied with the quality of their housing, particularly in the Selwyn and Waimakariri districts, slightly less so in Christchurch City (but with a significant improvement between 2017 and 2019).
Key equity issues within housing
Despite the general pattern of improvement in the availability of quality affordable housing in greater Christchurch, there are clear inequalities in exposure to poor quality housing. People with limited financial resources, people of Māori and Pacific ethnicity, people with a long-term health condition or disability, and those living in rental houses are at increased risk of exposure to poor quality housing. Affordability is sensitive to welfare and policy settings and other changes that can place people’s income under pressure.
What this means for wellbeing
Housing is a key determinant of health and wellbeing. Improvements in the supply of good-quality, affordable housing in greater Christchurch continue. Some indicators have largely returned to the pre-earthquake picture while others continue to make progress.
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