Across the world, people in a broad range of professions live in housing provided by their employers. Yet little is known about life in employer-provided housing. This project investigates how a single relationship that secures both housing and employment affects experiences of home, and analyses differences over time and between different sectors of workers. 

Internationally, the crisis in housing affordability in many places has led to employers increasingly providing accommodation in order to access labour. Technology companies in California are building thousands of homes for workers, and there are calls to build housing on public land for health workers in the UK. The 

range of roles represented in employer-provided housing, as well as the diversity in socio-economic, ethnic and migrant status by the people living there, is likely to signify a diversity of experiences.  NZ has a rich history of employer-provided housing processing. Employers that once provided accommodation to their workers include large companies involved in forestry, electricity generation, and resource extraction, farms and orchards, and public organisations in the railway, health and education sectors, in particular in isolated places or for itinerant workers.  Māori are strongly represented in this history as mobile agricultural labour and workers in the primary industries. Today, accommodation is provided for roles in horticulture and agriculture (e.g. 3/4 of dairy farm workers), the armed forces, and the care, education, trades, health, fishing and tourism sectors. Employer-provided housing is spatially diverse: many workers housed together (i.e. fruit pickers, fisher crew, tourism workers), workers living alone or with a few others in an isolated place (farm workers) or in urban communities (trades, education, health, hospitality workers, defence, police). Consistent with global trends, employer-provided housing is experiencing a renaissance due to the housing crisis, with employers investing in housing provision in order to access labour. 

International research shows that living in employer-provided housing can mean tolerating poor housing conditions, isolation, and paternalism, and can work against accessing workers’ and housing rights. In other contexts, workers report enjoying the convenience of living on-site: the lack of commute, remaining close to their family during the work-day, and the camaraderie of living alongside their colleagues. These accounts described provide illuminating glimpses of how living at the workplace affects people, yet they remain glimpses, as it is often working, rather than housing, which is the focus of these studies. In addition, NZ experiences, the experiences of many different professions represented in employer-provided housing, and studies which compare experiences between different types of workers, are lacking in the literature. 

The aim of the current study is to provide an account of life in employer-provided housing in NZ. This takes in the number and quality of this housing, the population living there, and how this has changed over time in response to economic and political factors; the contemporary experiences of employers that provide and workers that live in such housing, and how these differ between different sectors and cultural groups. 

To meet this aim, we are conducting a mixed methods study. We will conduct interviews with people living in employer-provided housing, employers that provide housing to workers, and people working in government and the community with experience and knowledge about key issues in employer-provided housing. Drawing on census and administrative data, we will estimate the amount of housing provided by employers, the number of people living in employer-provided housing, and, to the extent possible, analyse the characteristics of this population. Finally, we will conduct historical research to investigate the trajectory of this type of housing over time. 

For queries on this research, or if you have expertise in or experience living in employer-provided housing and would like to be interviewed, please contact the lead researcher Dr Elinor Chisholm: elinor.chisholm@otago.ac.nz

Research team: Dr Elinor Chisholm, Dr Ramona Tiatia, Dr Amber Logan, Dr Helen Viggers.