A 'decent home' is accessible for everyone

A decent home must be accessible to everyone. Access has multiple dimensions.  It means that people should have access to a home, as well as the ability of that home to meet needs, such as for people with physical impairments. It touches on the other dimensions such as affordability, whether people are excluded from housing because they cannot afford shelter, as well as discrimination (exclusion from housing because of personal attributes such as ethnicity). 
From the many aspects of housing accessibility, we have chosen three indicators – prevalence of homelessness, public housing stock compared to the population, and unmet need for housing modifications. These indicators show that overall progressive realisation hasn’t been met for this dimension of the right to a decent home.  

Indicator 1: Severe housing deprivation 

Severe housing deprivation prevalence graph

Our indicators show that many people don’t have access to a decent home and are considered severely housing deprived, and this isn’t improving sufficiently. 

Severe housing deprivation appears to have increased incrementally from 2001, however, due to data limitations some caution should be used when comparing with estimates prior to 2013. Overall, those severely housing deprived (excluding the uninhabitable housing category) increased slightly from 88 people per 10,000 people in 2013 to 89 people per 10,000 people in 2018. In 2018, a new census question around access to basic amenities allowed uninhabitable housing to be measured for the first time. When we include people living in uninhabitable housing, in 2018, 102,100 people were estimated to be severely housing deprived. 

Indicator 2: Public housing stock compared to the population 

Graph for State and public housing stock compared to the population

Public housing provides a home for people who struggle to access housing but state provision of public housing, though increasing, is lower than the OECD average and below previous peaks. 

The supply of public housing compared to the population peaked in 1990 and hasn’t kept pace with population growth since. State and public housing stock has improved since 2017, surpassing 1990’s levels, but hasn’t recovered to the previous peak per capita peak.  

Indicator 3: Use and unmet need of housing modifications 

Graph for Use and unmet need of housing modifications


We don’t have a good understanding about how much of our housing stock is accessible to people with physical disabilities, or whether the right to an accessible home is being met through progressive realisation. Our best information is from the New Zealand Disability Survey, which was last held in 2013. One in six people with a physical impairment (17 percent) said they had an unmet need for some kind of modification to their home. The next disability survey will be in 2023.  More frequent data is needed to track this right effectively.  

Read the full commentary about housing accessibility here.