Housing, Health and Wellbeing: A Phenomenological Exploration of Life in Subsidised Housing

Mondy Jera – Masters 2005

A house is more than just a dwelling. A house offers protection from the elements; provides a place for family and friends to gather; is a place to perform routine daily functions; and provides a place to express who we are. Housing is a determinant of health, but not everyone can find houses that meet their requirements through the private rental market or through home ownership and thus rely on Government subsidies for housing. There is a growing body of literature that provides evidence for an association between where we live and health and well-being, and also that people who live in disadvantaged housing situations may be more at risk for negative health effects from inadequate housing. But we do not often hear from the housing occupants themselves.

This thesis contains the results of a qualitative study designed to explore what it is like to live in subsidised housing. The study explored the lived experiences of six Wellington subsidised housing tenants via in-depth, semi-structured interviews. The methodology for the study was phenomenology, and the analysis utilised a combination of descriptive and interpretive phenomenology. Throug an analysis of the participants’ descriptions, two essential themes were found: dependence and compromise. These particpants were living at odds with their houses for a variety of reasons, which was termed house-occupant mismatch. The findings of this study suggest that living in a house that does not suit one’s needs contributes to the potential for negative health effects, particularly in a group of people who are already experiencing the effects of material disadvantage.