Household crowding

This section presents data and statistics on household crowding in New Zealand.  Living in crowded houses increases the risk of infectious diseases spreading, particularly among children. 

Household crowding is defined as needing one or more bedrooms; severe household crowding is defined as needing two or more bedrooms. Household crowding is measured with Census data, using the Canadian National Occupancy Standard.  See information about the data below.  

On this page

One in ten people lives in crowded conditions
Māori and Pacific are more affected
Many children living in crowded conditions
Household crowding is not evenly distributed in New Zealand
Other at-risk population groups
Health effects from household crowding

One in ten people lives in crowded conditions

In 2006, 10.4 percent of New Zealanders (390,000 people) lived in a crowded house [1]. This had increased slightly since 2001, when household crowding affected 10.1 percent of the population. 

In 2006, 3.5 percent of people lived in severely crowded houses (needing 2 or more bedrooms), similar to in 1991.  

Māori and Pacific are more affected

Many Māori and Pacific people live in crowded houses.  In 2006, household crowding affected:

  • 43 percent of Pacific people
  • 23 percent of Māori 
  • 5 percent of people of European ethnicity.

The proportion of people living in crowded houses decreased in all ethnic groups from 1991 to 2006. However, large ethnic differences still remain.  

Figure 1

Source: Baker et al [1]

Many children living in crowded conditions

Children are disproportionately affected by household crowding in New Zealand.

About one in six children (16.5 percent) lived in crowded houses. 

Māori and Pacific children were more affected by household crowding than children of other ethnic groups.  Almost half of all Pacific children (46 percent) and 28 percent of Māori children lived in crowded houses in 2006. 

Household crowding is not evenly distributed in New Zealand

Geographically, household crowding is worse in the North Island. In 2006, Manukau city had the highest proportion of people living in crowded households (25 percent). 

Figure 2: Percentage of people living in crowded households, by territorial authority, 2006

Source: Statistics New Zealand [2]

Other at-risk population groups

Household crowding is very unevenly distributed in New Zealand. Along with children and Māori and Pacific ethnicity, risk factors for household crowding include [1]:

  • living in rental houses
  • multi-family households
  • low equivalised household income
  • being unemployed
  • lack of educational qualifications.

Health effects from household crowding

Household crowding can increase the spread of infectious diseases.  For more information on the health effects from household crowding, go to the health and household crowding webpage

Information about the data

Household crowding

Source: Census (1991, 1996, 2001, 2006). Results for household crowding published in The Distribution of Household Crowding in New Zealand: An analysis based on 1991 to 2006 Census data [1]

Definition: A household is generally considered overcrowded if at least one more bedroom is needed. We used the following definitions for this indicator:

  • household crowding: at least one more bedroom is needed (1+ bedroom deficit)
  • severe household crowding: at least two more bedrooms is needed (2+ bedroom deficit).

In New Zealand, the number of bedrooms needed is defined using the Canadian National Occupancy Standard.  These criteria are:

  • there should be no more than two people per bedroom
  • children younger than 5 years of different sexes may reasonably share a bedroom
  • children 5 years or older of the opposite sex should not share a bedroom
  • children younger than 18 years and of the same sex may reasonably share a bedroom
  • household members 18 years or over should have a separate bedroom, as should parents or couples.

References

1. 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, Wellington. Available online: http://www.healthyhousing.org.nz/publications/

2. Statistics New Zealand. 2013. Subnational crowding tables 1991-2006. Wellington: Statistics New Zealand.