Latest census provides valuable insight into property in NZ

by Alistair Helm in

The 2013 Census data is being released in tantalising nibbles by Statistics New Zealand over the next 12months. I make no criticism by this comment, I am just eager to see what we can learn from this long awaited census data delayed by 2 years as a function of the Christchurch earthquake.

The data set on households and housing makes very interesting reading and I have distilled what I think are the pertinent facts.

The headline grabbing number that has been capturing the media’s attention is the fact that in 2013 the proportion of the population that occupy a property that they own or partially own as their usual residence has fallen to below 50% - leading to the statement that there are now less people living in their own home than renting. This is significant and a trend that has been accelerating over the past decade. In absolute numbers, the number of people living in their own home grew just 1% between 2006 and 2013 at 1,590,546 whilst the number not living in a home they owned (or partially owned) grew 16% to 1,603,011.

This statistic of more than half the population living in a home which they did not own seemed to be out of alignment with a commonly held statistics of “home ownership” at around 65% which is often quoted. I did find within the Census data the fact that 64.8% of households (of which there are 1,549,890 in NZ) live in a house which they own or partially own. So just to be clear; just less than half the total population now live in a home they own, whilst just under two thirds of all households own their own home. From this we can also infer that the average household not owning their own home consist of more than the average 2.9 people per household - interesting.

Of somewhat greater significance is the age disparity of property ownership. In 2013 the proportion of people aged 20 - 29 years that are living in a property they own dropped to just 27% - 12 years ago in 2001 that figure was 47%. Similarly a significant drop was seen in the 30 - 45 year age bracket down from 84% in 2006 to 75% in 2013. In fact within this age bracket over the past 7 years the number of people living in a home they own dropped by over 86,000.


Looking at other insights from the data. The total number of dwellings has risen 7% since 2006 to 1,756,143 of which 185,448 were classified as unoccupied, up 16% from 2006, a further 9,756 properties were under construction.  

This growth in the number of dwellings is lower than the growth between prior census periods which has been of the order 8% - those being 5 year periods where of course this is a 7 year period, further demonstrating how the shortage of new house building has effected the property market.

A continuing trend seen in the census data is the household occupancy rate. This has continued to fall to a new level of 2.87% reversing a small rise between 2001 and 2006.

Finally the composition of the housing stock is gradually changing. The predominant type of property is a standalone house representing 76% of all occupied dwellings, down very slightly from 2006. Within this type two storey properties are growing faster (up 12%) than single storey (up 4%).

Apartments and Townhouses represent 17% of all dwellings, however when it comes to Auckland the figure is 23% and in the inner city centre in the Waitemata Board area the predominant type is not the standalone house, but apartments and townhouses representing 65% of all dwellings up from 57% just 7 years ago.