NZPR Special Issue essential contribution to housing debate

State Housing, Dixon St Flats, Wellington 1940

The 2021 special issue of the NZ Population Review released today may be considered something of a bible in the years to come by anyone serious about housing issues in Aotearoa.

Published by the Population Association of New Zealand (PANZ), the special issue comprises ten new papers by some of our weightiest names in housing research as well as critical new voices, providing the latest data, crucial historical context, and direct experiences of the current housing crisis.

It also includes analysis of how simplistic renditions of housing statistics in government briefings frequently distort how we see housing problems and their solutions in New Zealand. “We’re hoping that this special issue will help raise the level of public debate about the housing crisis” said co-editor Kay Saville-Smith, director of the Centre for Research, Evaluation & Social Assessment (CRESA).

The issue starts with comprehensive overview papers on housing policy and housing statistics in New Zealand, highlighting the interconnection between housing, population wellbeing, the political and policy processes that paved the way for New Zealand’s decline in home-ownership, as well as implications of population and housing change for Māori. Data analysis includes a comprehensive and user-friendly summary of the 2020 Chief Statistician’s report on housing outcomes, including homelessness, and the journey of New Zealand housing stock and its affordability since the 1990s.

With a growing proportion of New Zealanders renting, the issue then deep-dives into rental conditions and experiences. This includes findings from the latest Housing Condition Survey showing that “whether someone owns or rents has a profound impact on their housing conditions,” said Kay Saville-Smith.

More papers examine the precariousness and agency experienced by New Zealand’s swelling population of renters. “In one paper, reading about the struggles of young people in insecure housing truly saddened me”, said co-editor Grace Walker, based at the University of Otago, Christchurch. “The impact of insecure housing on people’s mental health and wellbeing can be so profoundly damaging.”

Many of the papers challenge preconceptions around Māori and housing. “Despite what previous authors have claimed, Māori cultural practices do not explain the decline of Māori owner occupation” said co-editor Grace Walker (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāruahine).

The issue is capped by a rigorous and sometimes critical review of Paul Spoonley’s book ‘New New Zealand’ by Professor Richard Bedford.

The Special Housing Issue in the news:
Radio NZ: Consequences of three decades of housing commodification
New Zealand Herald: Renting in Retirement: Divorce, financial shocks and illness revealed in new research
Stuff: Staying put in a rental can save you up to $110 per week, research finds

Download the special issue in full here or browse individual papers here.

Image: Dixon Street Flats 1940, Wellington, courtesy Archives New Zealand under Creative Commons License 2.0.