Household crowding in New Zealand in the 1990s: Was it driven by housing policy?

Sarah Widmer – Masters 2006

This thesis examines the connection between the 1990’s National Government housing policy and increases in household crowding. The policy – which introduced market rents for state houses, provided income assistance for all eligible households regardless of whether their house was owned or rented, and led to the sale of 11,000 state houses – marked a shift away from direct state involvement in the housing market, and was criticised for not meeting the complex housing needs of state housing tenants.

Through two policy analyses – the first descriptive and the second ecological – the question is explored as to whether crowding increased in response to unaffordable rents and limited low-cost housing supply brought about by the housing policy. Resultsof these analyses show that over the 1990s, housing affordability and state housing rentswere drivers of household crowding. Results also showed a strong association between crowding and other social and economic factors. The thesis concludes that the housing policy was not only a contributor to household crowding, but that it also offered little protectioin against other contributing factors for households that were at risk of crowding.

The analyses of the 1990’s National Government’s housing policy are contextualised with a review of the lieterature about household crowding and its relation to housing policy, as wll as a review of New Zealand housing policy over preceding decades. After analysing the connectoin btween the polciy and crowding, the thesis discusses the significance and limitations of these findings for both housing policy and public health.