5 Apr 2023

Pasifika bearing the brunt of New Zealand's housing crisis

4:25 pm on 5 April 2023
A house truck on the church grounds.

Photo: RNZ / Eva Corlett

Ever increasing housing costs are exacerbating health hazards and overcrowding for New Zealanders.

According to Statistics New Zealand one in nine New Zealanders live in overcrowded homes: that being defined as a home where any bedroom is occupied by three or more people.

The data shows that Pasifika are the hardest hit, with 40 percent living in overcrowded homes.

These were among various findings in the Tamaiti Ole Moana 2033 - a 10-year action plan detailing the challenges facing the health of Pasifika children, and outlining recommendations on how to address them.

It was discussed at the Pacific Child Wellbeing Conference in Auckland, which revealed that many houses are so overcrowded or poorly built that families have resorted to using garages.

One keynote speaker at the event, Auckland University's Dr Teuila Percival, said it was affecting the health of children.

"For children's wellbeing housing is really critical," Percival said.

Dr Teuila Percival.

Dr Teuila Percival. Photo: Supplied/Pasifika Medical Association

"If you have poor housing or overcrowded homes, you get unwell children, there's the dangers of pneumonia and even heart disease… adequate housing is good for mental health," she added.

Since real estate prices started skyrocketing in the early 2000s, New Zealand has consistently been ranked as one of the most expensive places to buy a home. According to the 2022 Global Cost of Property Report, New Zealand is the sixth least affordable country to buy a house.

It's also causing economic hardships for families. The report found that high costs of housing are the biggest contributor to economic hardship.

"I think overcrowding has been an issue for many years, but it's getting worse because of the difficulties with affordability," Percival said.

"The cost of private rentals and mortgages are so high, particularly our people who are renting, that it's really hard to gather wealth.

"So we're forever in this poverty trap, just getting enough money to spend most of it on our rent, with very little leftover for anything else, like, you know, school trips or sending our kids to sports clubs.

"It's a bit of a crisis at the moment just because the cost of housing is just eating up so much of household incomes."

Children significantly impacted

University of Otago immunologist Dianne Sika-Paotonu

Professor Dianne Sika-Paotonu Photo: Supplied/ University of Otago

Another keynote speaker, Otago University professor and immunologist, Dianne Sika-Paotonu also expressed her concerns over the impacts that the housing crisis had on the health of children.

"Significant inequities still persist for Pacific peoples in Aotearoa New Zealand, and [that] includes our children," Sika-Paotonu said.

"Equity based approaches take into account the specific needs of respective communities in seeking to address inequities effectively and efficiently.

Sika-Paotonu endorsed recommendations made in the report, to address the challenges.

The main recommendations outlined in the 10 Year Action Plan are improving access to quality housing, education, and quality healthcare.

"With respect to housing, the connection with health is undeniable," Sika-Paotonu said.

"Housing remains a significant health determinant, particularly for children."