2018 Severe Housing Deprivation Estimate - updated

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  • Statistics and research
  • Homelessness

We contracted the University of Otago to produce an estimate of the homeless population using 2018 Census data. 

Te Tūāpapa Kura Kāinga - Ministry of Housing and Urban Development is publishing updated findings of the Severe Housing Deprivation in Aotearoa New Zealand, 2018 report and the estimate of the level of homelessness (severe housing deprivation) experienced by New Zealand that it provides.  

Work undertaken on Housing that Lacks Basic Amenities by the University of Otago extends the 2018 estimate of Severe Housing Deprivation, adding information on uninhabitable housing. With this addition of approximately 60,000 people in the uninhabitable housing category added to the existing number of people who were living without shelter, in temporary accommodation or sharing accommodation (this total was previously reported as approximately 42,000) a total of approximately 102,000 people, or two percent of the population, are now estimated as being severely housing deprived on 6 March 2018.

The total includes: 

  • 3,624 people who were considered to be living without shelter (on the streets, in improvised dwellings – including cars - and in mobile dwellings). 
  • 7,929 people who were living in temporary accommodation (night shelters, women’s refuges, transitional housing, camping grounds, boarding houses, hotels, motels, vessels, and marae). 
  • 30,171 people who were sharing accommodation, staying with others in a severely crowded dwelling. 
  • 60,399 people who were living in uninhabitable housing that was lacking one of six basic amenities: tap water that is safe to drink; electricity; cooking facilities; a kitchen sink; a bath or shower; a toilet.

These figures reflect the situation in 2018 and do not reflect the impact of more recent developments, policies or the impact of COVID-19. 

Census 2018 – a point in time Measurement  

The Census 2018 estimate is a point in time measurement. The impact of COVID-19 and the government response to homelessness will present a different picture of the New Zealand homeless population than described in the estimate.  

Aotearoa New Zealand Homelessness Action Plan  

In February 2020 the government announced and begun implementing the Aotearoa New Zealand Homelessness Action Plan.  This has been developed with the homeless sector and is the first plan of its kind led by the central Government in New Zealand.  

The Ministry is placing an emphasis on actions that take kaupapa Māori approaches and that aim to assist hapū, iwi and Māori organisations to address homelessness in a way that they consider best meets the needs and aspirations of their communities.  

Kaupapa Māori principles underpin the development of the plan and will drive the design and delivery of actions to seek measurable change for whānau, hapū, and Iwi. This means that actions will work to improve outcomes for Māori experiencing homelessness and will work to prevent and reduce homelessness for Māori.  

As part of the Homelessness Action Plan, the Ministry is developing the joined-up approach and evaluation of homelessness in New Zealand that provides a better understanding of the number of people experiencing homelessness in New Zealand.  

The Severe Housing Deprivation in Aotearoa New Zealand, 2018 report serves as a reminder to wider New Zealand that those experiencing homelessness are not only those people who are visible on the streets, it’s also those who have nowhere else to go, but a night shelter or a refugethose who have to live in a motel, and those who have to stay with friends or whānau, who may already have a full house of their own. 

This report provides an estimate of those living in these circumstances in early 2018reinforcing the need for the initiatives we have in the Aotearoa New Zealand Homelessness Action Plan. 

2018 Severe Housing Deprivation figures

  • On Census night 2018, 102,123 people were identified as severely housing deprived, which is nearly 2.2 percent of the population. This is a minimum due to a range of challenges measuring this population. 
  • This figure reflects the situation in 2018 and does not reflect the impact of more recent developments, policies or the impact of COVID-19. 
  • The severely housing deprived population was disproportionately young, with close to half aged under 25 years of age. 
  • The highest rates of severe housing deprivation were found in Gisborne and Northland; the lowest in Canterbury and Taranaki.  
  • Problems with the 2018 Census will have had a significant effect on the quality of information about severe housing deprivation, including a likely undercount of Māori and Pacific people experiencing severe housing deprivation. This underlines the importance of developing other sources of data to monitor severe housing deprivation  
  • Severe housing deprivation disproportionately affected ethnic minorities. Māori and Pacific people’s severe housing deprivation prevalence rates were three and five times the European rate, respectively, and the true levels of inequity are probably greater. 

Māori and Pacific figures

  • Severe housing deprivation disproportionately affected ethnic minorities. Māori and Pacific people’s severe housing deprivation prevalence rates were three and five times the European rate, respectively, and the true levels of inequity are probably greater. 
  • The 2018 Severe Housing Deprivation estimate results indicate Māori made up:  
    • 26 percent of those living without shelter 
    • 18 percent of those living in commercial accommodation 
    • 37 percent of those sharing accommodation
    • 26 percent of those living in uninhabitable dwellings.
  • Rates of severe housing deprivation were highest among Pacific and Māori young people, including 16,338 young Māori under 24 years of age. 
  • The current estimates for Māori are lower than what HUD is hearing from providers who work with Māori experiencing homelessness.  
  • Anecdotally homelessness providers, who are very aware of need, are advising HUD that homelessness has been getting worse, particularly among Māori.  
  • This report confirms that these figures are a likely undercount of both Māori and Pacific people experiencing severe housing deprivation. 
  • There was substantial variation in response rates by ethnicity for the 2018 Census, with Māori and Pacific people particularly affected. The main impact on the severe housing deprivation estimate is that around 330,000 people could not be allocated to a household. Māori and Pacific make up almost half of the 330,000 people missing from households and they are more likely to share with family or friends when they cannot access a place of their own. 

Census comparison table

Severely housing deprived population by broad and specific living situation – count and prevalence rate, 2018 

Broad living situation 

(New Zealand Definition of Homelessness category) 


Number of people 

Prevalence rate per 10,000 people2 

Without shelter 

Roofless / rough sleeper  



Improvised dwelling 



Mobile dwelling 






Temporary accomm.                  

Emergency & transitional accomm. (NGO-run) 

Night shelter 



Women’s refuge 



Other accomm. for homeless people 






Commercial accomm.1 

Camping ground / motor camp 



Boarding houses, hotels, motels 









Subtotal (temporary accommodation) 



Sharing accommodation (temporary resident in a severely crowded private dwelling) 



Total categories 1, 2 and 3 

41,724 3 


4 Uninhabitable housing (lacking access to one of six basic amenities)




Total severely housing deprived




1 Numbers of people in the ‘Commercial accommodation’ categories are counts random rounded to base three-plus proportions of children living in that dwelling type (‘Prorata allocation of children’ - see Figure 1 and Amore et al., 2013 for rationale). As such, these values are not divisible by three.

2 Denominator is the 2018 New Zealand usually resident population. 

3 The total for categories 1,2,3 has been corrected from 41,744 to 41,724 on 22 July 2021.

Sources: Data analysed here were sourced from Stats NZ, HUD, and emergency housing providers. This table is sourced from Amore, K., Viggers, H., Howden-Chapman, P. (2021). Severe Housing Deprivation in Aotearoa New Zealand, 2018: June 2021 update. Wellington: Te Tūāpapa Kura Kāinga - Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.

Published: June 22, 2021