Download complete Housing domain

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 [1]. 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 [2]. 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

Supply-side pressures have eased 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 2020).

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.


  1. Ministry of Social Development (2016) The Social Report 2016. Wellington: Ministry of Social Development.
  2. Howden-Chapman P (2004) Housing standards: a glossary of housing and health. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. 58: 162-168.
  3. National Health Committee (1998) The Social, Cultural and Economic Determinants of Health in New Zealand: Action to Improve Health. Wellington: National Health Committee.
  4. Thomson H, Thomas S, Sellstrom E, Petticrew M (2013) Housing improvements for health and associated socio-economic outcomes. Cochrane Database Syst Rev: Cd008657.
  5. Carter D, Sharp S, British Medical Association (2003) Housing and health: Building for the future. London: British Medical Association.
  6. Howden-Chapman P, Matheson A, Crane J, Viggers H, Cunningham M, et al. (2007) Effect of insulating existing houses on health inequality: cluster randomised study in the community. BMJ 334: 460.
  7. Howden-Chapman P, Pierse N, Nicholls S, Gillespie-Bennett J, Viggers H, et al. (2008) Effects of improved home heating on asthma in community dwelling children: randomised controlled trial. BMJ 337.
  8. Mitchell I, O’Malley S (2004) How affordable is housing in New Zealand and what strategies are available to reduce housing stress? Social Policy, Research and Evaluation Conference, 25–26 November. Wellington.
  9. Baker MG, Goodyear R, Telfar Barnard L, Howden-Chapman P (2012) The Distribution of Household Crowding in New Zealand: An analysis based on 1991 to 2006 Census data. Wellington: He Kainga Oranga/Housing and Health Research Programme, University of Otago.
  10. Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. (2019). Housing Affordability Measure Method HAM version 1.4. Wellington: Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.
  11. Miller S, Suie S, Bycroft C (2018) Comparing housing information from census and tenancy bond data. Wellington: Statistics New Zealand.
  12. Baker MG, McDonald A, Zhang J, Howden-Chapman P (2013) Infectious Diseases Attributable to Household Crowding in New Zealand: A systematic review and burden of disease estimate. Wellington: He Kainga Oranga/Housing and Health Research Programme, University of Otago.
  13. Crothers C, Kearns R, Lindsey D (1993) Housing in Manukau City: Overcrowding, Poor Housing and Their Consequences Working Papers in Sociology, University of Auckland 27.
  14. Evans GW (2003) The built environment and mental health. J Urban Health 80: 536-555.