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Dwelling and household trends: 1991–2015

This article describes trends in dwelling, household, and population growth, and households by tenure, from 1991 to September 2015. See:

See Dwelling and Household Estimates – information releases for the latest data.

Dwelling and household growth outpaced by population growth

The number of private dwellings and households in New Zealand has historically been increasing at a rate exceeding the population growth rate, but in 2013–15 that trend has reversed. Population growth was an estimated 1.9 percent in the year ended June 2015, compared with private dwelling growth of 1.2 percent. Population growth has exceeded dwelling growth at other times too – in 2002–03 and 2009–10, for example.

Graph, Annual dwelling, household, and population growth, March 1992 to September 2015.

The estimate of private dwellings is a measure of New Zealand’s housing stock. The household estimate is a measure of those dwellings which are usually occupied. The difference between the two estimates reflects private dwellings that are not usually occupied such as second homes, holiday homes, and vacant dwellings.

Over a longer period, dwelling growth has outpaced population growth. The number of private dwellings in 2015 is about seven times the number in 1915, while the population is about four times as large. As a result, the average number of people per household has dropped from 5.2 in 1886 to 2.7 in 2013 (See The story of the century – dramatic changes in housing and population). This reflects a number of trends including smaller family sizes and longer life expectancy, resulting in a greater proportion of one-person and two-person households.

The latest estimates indicate a private dwelling stock of 1.8 million, of which about 1.7 million are usually occupied. Given a population of 4.6 million, this is an average of 2.7 people per household.

Renting becoming more common

The majority (64 percent) of households are owner-occupied in 2015, meaning the people living in the household own the dwelling with or without a mortgage. A further 32 percent of households rent their dwelling, while 4 percent have their dwelling provided free.

Graph, Estimated number of households by tenure, June 1991 to September 2015.

However, the proportion of households who rent their dwelling has increased from 23 percent in 1991. In contrast, the proportion of households who own their dwelling (with or without a mortgage) has decreased from 74 percent in 1991.

How we estimate the number of dwellings and households

The census of population and dwellings is the basis for the dwelling and household estimates. In between each census, we update the estimates based on building consents, lagged by six months to allow for completion of the dwelling, and weighted (down) to allow for consents that are not fulfilled and for dwellings that are demolished or destroyed. These estimates are subsequently revised (recalibrated) when new census results become available.

The household estimates also include an allowance for households not counted by census. This includes households wholly absent from their usual address on census night (either elsewhere in New Zealand or overseas), and households missed by the census (net census undercount).

Trends at a local level may differ

Of course, these national trends can conceal different trends at a local level. The census gives a snapshot of the number and characteristics of dwellings and people. 

See 2013 Census QuickStats about housing for more information, including trends at the subnational level.

Published 7 October 2015

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