Shaping our cities
A multidisciplinary cross-agency research project, led by Otago’s Sesquicentennial Distinguished Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman, sets out to measure the impact of quality public housing on the well-being of families and communities.
As New Zealand proceeds with its biggest programme of public housing construction since the post World War 2 period, an ambitious research project is underway at the Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington, to map the impact warm, dry public housing can have on tenants’ health and well-being.
The research is led by Sesquicentennial Distinguished Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman, co-director of He Kāinga Oranga/Housing and Health research programme.
“We are not just shaping houses; we are shaping our communities and cities. We are shaping the built environment to improve well-being and reduce carbon emissions.”
With New Zealand in the midst of transformational change in housing and construction, it’s a key time for researchers to investigate the impact on our public housing and communities, she says.
“Housing is very important to the country as a whole and it is important to the government to do this properly. We are not just shaping houses; we are shaping our communities and cities. We are shaping the built environment to improve well-being and reduce carbon emissions.”
The project brings together 24 researchers from the University and 12 from other institutions, including Māori and Pacific researchers, and others with expertise in fields ranging from public health to social science and economics, architecture to engineering.
They will examine the approach taken in specific projects run by a range of different public housing organisations, including state housing provider Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities, Tamaki Regeneration, Te Rūnanga O Toa Rangatira, Wellington City Council, Ōtautahi Community Housing Trust, the Salvation Army and the Wainuiōmata Marae Trust.
Working with these providers to co-design the evaluation, each housing project will be measured for performance on a number of key indicators: governance, financial arrangements and strategies; housing quality and scale; energy efficiency; transport and carbon emissions; community development; and understanding and implementation of Te Tiriti o Waitangi responsibilities.
Researchers will be looking for innovative design approaches to housing, with projects assessed on their connections to green space, public transport, cycle paths and walkways, as well as the embodied carbon footprint and operating costs.
Howden-Chapman says the project will have both a quantitative and qualitative approach, with researchers using outcome data from Stats NZ’s Integrated Data Infrastructure, air quality sensors to collect real-time information on indoor temperatures, and interviews with directors and managers, public housing tenants and their community neighbours.
“It’s the most ambitious research project we have undertaken. As far as we know, it’s a world first.”
Researchers will share their findings with the public housing providers, iwi and local and central government, as well as internationally with the World Health Organization to enable it to measure the implementation of the International Housing and Health Guidelines – which drew on the results of He Kāinga Oranga’s HRC-funded community trials and had their Southern Hemisphere launch at the Wellington campus in 2019.
Ministry of Business. Innovation and Employment Endeavour Fund