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Auckland Council The Auckland Plan

Household crowding

A key impact of Auckland's housing crisis is household crowding.

What is considered to be a crowded household can vary across Aucklanders, and there is no official statistic or index of household crowding in New Zealand [see note 1].

Stats NZ reports that the Canadian National Occupancy Standard provides the best fit to measure crowding for the New Zealand context, although it is acknowledged that it may not fully align with all social and cultural norms.

This measure states that crowding occurs where a household needs one or more additional bedrooms to meet the following conditions:

  • no more than two people per bedroom
  • children aged between five and 18 of different genders should not share a bedroom
  • single adults aged 18 years or over should have their own bedroom.

Using this definition, Goodyear and Fabian (2014) found that at the 2013 Census:

  • 8 per cent of Auckland households were considered crowded – over 36,500 households
  • 15 per cent of Aucklanders lived in crowded households – more than 203,000 Aucklanders
  • Auckland accounted for almost half of all crowded households in New Zealand
  • crowding rates varied significantly by ethnic group:
    • 45 per cent of Pacific people lived in crowded households
    • 25 per cent of Māori
    • 19 per cent of Asians
    • 5 per cent of Europeans
  • by local board area the highest rates of household crowding were in:
    • Māngere-Ōtāhuhu – 42 per cent of residents lived in a crowded household
    • Ōtara-Papatoetoe – 39 per cent of residents lived in a crowded household.

Between 1991 and 2013, crowding rates fell considerably in most parts of New Zealand, but remained at around the same level in Auckland.

There is no official data for the years since 2013. However, given the increase in housing costs and the continued shortfall in housing supply, it is reasonable to expect that household crowding in Auckland has worsened since the 2013 Census.

It is important to note that levels of household crowding are likely to be understated as people tend to feel uneasy about fully disclosing their living arrangement in an official capacity such as the census. Similarly, these statistics will not reflect instances of 'functional crowding' where household members sleep, live and eat together in a single room to cut down on heating costs.

The link between household crowding and negative health consequences is well documented (Massey University, 2017). For example, there is a well-established association between overcrowding and avoidable diseases such as rheumatic fever and respiratory illnesses.

Household crowding can also affect mental and emotional wellbeing. Living in close quarters, without adequate privacy or enough space for all, can place significant strain on the relationship between household occupants.

As with many of the other problems associated with the housing crisis, reducing household crowding requires acceleration in the construction of affordable houses and new measures to enhance the security of tenure. Increasing Auckland's social housing stock will make a significant difference as well.



[2] Goodyear, R. & Fabian, A. (2014) Housing in Auckland: Trends in housing from the census of population and dwellings 1991 to 2013.

[3] Goodyear, R, Fabian, A, & Hay, J. (2011). Finding the crowding index that works best for New Zealand (Statistics New Zealand Working Paper No 11–04).

[4] Massey University. (2017). Environmental Health Indicators New Zealand.