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Wellington campusMonday 23 September 2013 8:00am

An estimated 34,000 people, or about one in every 120 New Zealanders, were unable to access housing in 2006, according to the latest available census and emergency housing data, say University of Otago, Wellington (UOW) researchers.

Researchers from the Health Research Council-funded He Kainga Oranga/Housing and Health Research Programme, measured the 'severely housing deprived' population. The study was funded by Statistics New Zealand and Housing New Zealand.

UOW researcher Dr Kate Amore says very little is known about this population, and the study provides the first ever New Zealand statistics on the problem.

Kate_AmoreDr Kate Amore

“These 34,000 people were crowding in with family or friends, staying in boarding houses, camping grounds, emergency accommodation, in cars, or on the street. They all had low incomes,” Dr Amore says.

“Many of these people are excluded from poverty and unemployment statistics, and are not on social housing waiting lists.

“They are extremely disadvantaged, and it's great that we now have a way to produce robust numbers about the size of the problem and who's affected.”

A quarter of severely housing deprived people were children under 15 years, living in these inadequate situations with their family, she says. About a third of the adults in the population were working, but still could not get a house for themselves or their family.

“We know that housing shortages, poverty, and crowding are very serious problems in New Zealand, so these findings are not surprising. We expect the problem is bigger now than it was in 2006.
“This study just adds to the evidence that housing is major issue, and we need a lot more quality housing that people on low incomes can afford to live in,” Dr Amore says.

The researchers analysed the two most recent censuses and records from emergency accommodation providers such as night shelters. The official New Zealand definition of homelessness was used, with some modifications. Statistics New Zealand, Housing New Zealand and the Ministry of Social Development developed the definition.

“Some people refer to this issue as 'homelessness', but we know that most people think homelessness is just about sleeping on the street,” Dr Amore says.

“We counted everyone who couldn't get a house to rent, which is a much bigger problem. The Government needs to know about all of these people, not just those on the streets.”
The researchers plan to update the statistics as soon as they can analyse the 2013 Census.

The research was published today on the Official Statistics System website,

For further information contact:

Dr Kate Amore
Department of Public Health University of Otago, Wellington
Mob 64 27 207 7574

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