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Home-ownership patterns at the individual level

We can also explore changes to tenure patterns at the individual level through the ‘tenure holder’ variable. This information comes from a census question that asks "do you yourself own, or partly own, the dwelling that you usually live in (with or without a mortgage)?”

Differences in question wording over time may affect comparability of individual home ownership. In 2006 and 2013 we asked respondents to mark 'Yes' if the dwelling was held in a family trust. In 2001 there was no instruction (either on the form or in the help notes) about how to answer the question. In 2001, some people whose home was in a family trust may have answered 'No' instead of 'Yes'. This may have resulted in the data showing a lower percentage for home ownership in 2001 than if this instruction had been included.

See Information by variable for more information about tenure holder.

Through the home-ownership variable, we see people’s individual tenure status. This enables us to more clearly understand the characteristics of adults who own or do not own their dwelling.

We know that home-ownership rates tend to rise with age. In the total population, in 2013, less than 5 percent of people aged 15–24 years said they owned their dwelling, compared with around three-quarters of people aged 55 and over. When using the home-ownership variable we include an analysis by age – it’s possible the much younger age structure of Māori and Pacific peoples could be one factor in their lower home-ownership rates.

This age disparity with the total population has increased slightly over time. Since 1986, the European population has aged at a faster rate than the Māori and Pacific populations. Figure 20 shows the median age for European people rose nine years between 1986 and 2013, compared with just four years for Māori and three years for Pacific people.

Figure 20

Graph, Medium age for selected ethnic groups.

Māori and Pacific people have larger proportional falls in home-ownership even when age standardised

Age standardisation of home-ownership rates

One factor that contributes to disparities in measures of home ownership is the wide difference in the age structure of the groups being compared. Both the Pacific and Māori populations have a much younger age structure than the total population, which affects comparison of unadjusted rates for individual home-ownership.

For example, in 2013 a home-ownership rate not adjusted for age is 28.2 percent of Māori adults and 18.5 percent of Pacific adults, contrasting with 50.2 percent for the total adult population. By age standardising, we can show what the rates would be had these populations had the same age structure as the total population. We find the age-adjusted Māori rate is 35.0 percent, and the age-adjusted Pacific rate is 24.4 percent. This shows that the differing age structures of the Māori and Pacific populations accounts for some disparity, but the dominant causes of such disparity lie elsewhere.

Table 2 shows the differences in the home-ownership rates and percentage change for selected ethnic groups – before and after age standardisation.

Table 2
Differences in individual home ownership rates and percentage change
Before and after age standardisation

 Ethnic group


 2001 age adjusted rate


 2013 age adjusted rate

 % change 2001–13

 % change age adjusted 2001-13















 Pacific peoples







 Total people who stated an ethnicity  54.9  ..  50.2  ..  -8.4  ..
 Symbol: .. figure not available
Source: Statistics New Zealand

Home ownership falls for most age groups

There was considerable variability in home ownership by age, with people under 35 years having the greatest falls between 2001 and 2013. Figure 22 shows that individual home ownership for European and Pacific people aged 75+ rose.

Between the two census years, for people aged 25 to 34 years, home-ownership rates fell from 42.4 percent to 32.0 percent for people with European ethnicity, from 22.7 percent to 16.4 percent for Māori, and from 18.7 percent to 10.9 percent for Pacific people. The only group to have experienced an overall increase was people grouped under ‘other’. However, as that category has undergone considerable change over time, any change is more likely to be related to change in this group’s composition.

Figure 21 
Graph, Percentage change in proportion of people owning their dwelling.  

Differences in income between ethnic groups may affect the affordability of home ownership. Past and current income are both important for an individual’s ability to access home-ownership, but in the census we only have a measure of current income.

Next we look at the income of an individual and the income of the family in which an individual lives. In 2013, home-owners aged 25 to 54 years generally had higher personal incomes than non-home owners. Māori and Pacific home-owners in this age group received around 1.7 to 1.8 times more income than those who did not own their dwelling. A similar pattern emerges with family income.

When comparing median personal and median family income of home owners by age, much of the income difference between ethnic groups disappears. Figure 22 shows median annual personal income for individuals who owned or partly owned their houses, and compares this with the median annual family income of individuals in families. Family income is important as many people buy a dwelling with a partner.

However, it is important to remember that individuals may have ethnicities in more than one major ethnic grouping. This is especially true of Māori and Pacific people, where multiple ethnic identification is common and, in the case of family income, inter-ethnic partnering will tend to obscure some of the differences.

Figure 22
Graph, Median annual personal income for individuals and medium family income for those who owned/partly owned their dwelling.

However, home-ownership rates remain lower for Pacific and Māori even when we compare people of the same age who have a similar income level (see figure 23).

Figure 23

Graph, Individual home ownership for people 25–60 years.

Looking at home-ownership rates for different Pacific groups

Using the individual home-ownership variable shows that Pacific people were the ethnic group with the greatest proportional fall in home-ownership rates between 2001 and 2013.

Figure 24 shows more detail. In 2013, people with Fijian and Samoan ethnicity had slightly higher rates of home ownership (22.9 percent and 19.2 percent, respectively) than people of other Pacific ethnicities. Tongan people had the lowest home-ownership rate (15.3 percent) and the greatest decline from 2001 (down 33.9 percent).

Figure 24 

Graph, Percentage of people that owned or partly owned their home.  

Changes in territorial authority areas vary

As for home ownership at the household level, some regional differences do emerge for individual ownership. In Auckland, home ownership fell 13.5 percent for Māori individuals and 32.3 percent for Pacific people between 2001 and 2013. Figure 25 shows the changes in individual home-ownership rates in the largest urban territorial authority (TA) areas.

See Housing in Auckland for more information about the Auckland situation.

Figure 25
Graph, Percentage change in Maori and Pacific people's individual home ownership.

Between 2001 and 2013, both Māori and Pacific people experienced declining home-ownership rates in most TA areas.

In the North Island, Māori in the small Kawerau district experienced a sharp fall in individual home-ownership rates, down 23.8 percent.

However, fast-growing TAs such as Selwyn and Queenstown districts provided exceptions to this pattern for Māori – home ownership rose for their small Māori populations. Home ownership also rose in Central Hawke’s Bay district.

Factors affecting home-ownership falls

Research (eg Housing New Zealand, 2010) has identified some barriers to home ownership. In Māori Housing Trends report 2010 (Flynn et al, 2010), the authors attribute the lower home-ownership rates for Māori to: urbanisation, living in higher-cost areas (eg Auckland region), the younger age structure of the population, larger households, lower employment and income levels, intergenerational experience of owning a home, educational achievement, and the wish to live near whanau.

We consider some of these factors for Māori, but many also relate to the Pacific population.

Rising house prices

Since the 1980s house prices have risen substantially, particularly in the housing boom of the early to mid-2000s. The final report of the House Prices Unit (Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, 2008) notes, “Real house prices increased by close to 80% between March 2002 and March 2007, around the same increase as was recorded across the entire 1962–2002 period”.

At times this has been well above the increase in household incomes (Eaqub & Eaqub, 2015; Productivity Commission 2012). The increase in household incomes has also been uneven.

Between 1982 and 2004, real incomes increased close to 25% for the 90th percentile of earners (the highest 10% of earners), while at the 50th percentile (median income level) real incomes increased around 6%. Real household incomes fell for the lowest 30% of income earners, with the falls coming in the 1982–1996 period. From 1996 to 2004 there were small increases in real household incomes for the lowest 30% of income earners (Perry, 2007; quoted in Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, 2008)

While this rise in house prices has been associated with a fall in home-ownership rates for all households, Māori and Pacific people have experienced sharper declines.

The following section looks at house prices from Quotable Value New Zealand.

Figure 26 shows the rise in Quotable Value’s house price index (HPI) for selected cities and districts, while figure 27 shows the percentage change in the HPI for all TA areas (using pre-2010 boundaries). Auckland in particular has experienced a prolonged rise in house prices in recent years.

Figure 26
House price index for selected territorial authority areas

Graph, House price index for selected territorial authority areas.

Figure 27

Image, Percentage change in household price index, By territorial authority area, December 1989–2014.

Higher unemployment rates for Māori and Pacific people

Higher unemployment rates and lower incomes for Māori and Pacific people affect the ability of individuals and households to own a home in the long term. Applicants require ongoing work security and sufficient income to save a deposit and be granted approval for a mortgage.

Data from the Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) shows unemployment peaked in 1992, with rates for Māori and Pacific people at over 25 percent.

In 2015 unemployment rates were still high for Māori and Pacific people. In the September 2015 quarter of the HLFS, the unemployment rate for Māori was 12.9 percent and 13.1 percent for Pacific people). This compares with a total unemployment rate of 6.0 percent.

Figure 28, from the Ministry of Development’s Social Report (2010) shows the disparity in unemployment rates. Since 1992, unemployment rates for Pacific people and Māori have consistently been nearly three times the rate for European people.

Figure 28
Unemployment rates (HLFS) by ethnic group


Graph, Unemployment rates (HLFS) by ethnic group.

Source: The Social Report 2010, Ministry for Social Development.

High rates of unemployment have continued, as the HLFS data in figure 29 shows.

Figure 29
Graph, Unemployment rate for European, Maori, and Pacific peoples.

Since unemployment is higher among young people, the younger age structure of Māori and Pacific people contributes to their high unemployment. However, across all age groups, unemployment was still higher for Māori and Pacific people in 2013. When we adjust the unemployment rate to take into account the much younger age structure of the Māori and Pacific peoples populations, the rates were almost double those of the general population (just over 13 percent, compared with 7 percent for the population who stated their ethnicity).

Figure 30 shows unemployment by single year of age for selected ethnic groups (from 2013 Census). Although the census is not New Zealand’s official measure of unemployment, it lets us look at unemployment in greater detail than a sample survey.

Figure 30
Graph, Unemployment rate by single year of age.

Māori and Pacific people’s median income lower than for population overall

Māori and Pacific people tended to have lower median incomes than the total population – whether we look at personal, family, or household incomes they were more likely to be at the lower end of the income distribution. Perry (2015) shows these populations were proportionately more likely to be income poor, regardless of which measure was used.

For example, on average over the two surveys HES 2013 and 2014, using the After Housing Costs 60% anchored line measure, 12% of European/Pakeha, 26% of Māori, 25% Pacific and 26% ‘Other’ were in households with incomes below this line.

His figures cover all people in households, including children. Using his figures, smaller proportions of these populations could afford home ownership.

In the ‘Home-ownership patterns at the individual level’ chapter we compare income groupings for Māori, Pacific, and European ethnic groups. Although the proportion of individuals owning their dwelling rises with income, Pacific and Māori rates were still lower than for the population overall.

One-parent families have lowest home-ownership rates

Home ownership depends on household resources. By household composition, we find a difference in home-ownership rates – households with more than one person in employment are more likely to be able to afford to own a dwelling. Single parents tend to experience the greatest rates of poverty and low income of any household type. The 2013 Census showed that one-parent families, and ‘other multi-person households’ had the lowest rates of home ownership (37.4 percent and 34.7 percent, respectively).

However, the census is a snapshot and does not indicate the past circumstances of a family or household. Analysing changes in people’s movement into (and out of) home ownership over time would be useful future research.

For example, someone in a one-person household may have been part of a couple where, perhaps, one partner has died or moved out. A household with only a couple could have previously included children. Home ownership could also depend on past resources – a retired couple may have a low income currently but have paid-off their mortgage when their income was higher.

There is considerable variation in household composition and in family type for different ethnic populations. For example, a higher proportion of Māori and Pacific people live in one-parent-with-children households than other ethnic groups.

Table 3
Household composition for people in households

By selected ethnic group
2013 Census

 Household composition 


 Pacific peoples








 Couple only







 Couple only & other person(s)







 Couple with child(ren)







 Couple with child(ren) & other person(s)







 One parent with child(ren)







 One parent with child(ren) & other person(s)







 Two or more family household







 Other multi-person household







 One-person household







 Total stated







 Household composition unidentified














 Note: excludes absentees. All cells are randomly rounded to 3.
Symbol: … not applicable
Source: Statistics New Zealand

When we look at home-ownership rates for different household composition types we still see an ethnic disparity. For example, 47.4 percent of people with European ethnicity in a one-parent family household (without other people) lived in a dwelling owned, or partly owned, by their household. This compares with 21.9 percent of Māori and 16.4 percent of Pacific people.

Figure 31
Graph, Percentage living in an owner-occupied dwelling.
Figure 31 shows that Europeans living in couple-only and couple-with-children households had the highest rates of home ownership in 2013. The lowest rates were for Māori and Pacific people living in a one-parent family, with or without others, and in multi-person households.

Figure 32 excludes people under 25 years for this analysis because of the ethnic populations’ differing age structures. When we consider individual home ownership, the ethnic disparity remains. In 2013, 20.9 percent of Māori, and 16.4 percent of Pacific people, aged 25+ and living in a one-parent-with-children household owned their dwelling. This compares with 44.5 percent of people with European ethnicity.

Figure 32

Graph, Percentage of individuals aged 25+ years who  owned/partly owned their dwelling.

When we just look at individual home ownership by family type, and adjust for the age structure of the population, again disparities remain. In 2013, the unadjusted home-ownership rate for Māori adults in one-parent families was 12.1 percent. When adjusted by age, it rises to 15.7 percent. For Pacific peoples in one-parent families, the two rates were 9.6 percent and 12.1 percent, respectively.

Non-demographic factors may affect home-ownership

Factors other than household composition may also affect home-ownership rates for Māori and Pacific people. Although research has largely concentrated on difference in home ownership for Māori, factors identified may be common to both groups.

While age, employment, and income level are likely to be influential, these factors alone are not sufficient to explain all the difference in home-ownership rates – some non-demographic influences may also exist. For example, Flynn, Carne, & Soa-Lafoa’I (2010) note that Māori home-ownership rates were lower than those for Europeans across all income levels. They suggest that lack of intergenerational experience of home ownership may influence the rates.

Houkamau & Sibley (2015) modelled the effect of age, household income, and location in Auckland against other factors. They concluded that even when modelling for demographic factors, an increase in ‘self-perceived visual appearance as Māori’ was matched by a decrease in home-ownership rates. The perceived appearance scale was defined as ‘assessing the extent to which the individual subjectively evaluates their appearance as having clear and visible features that signal their ethnicity and ancestry as Māori’.

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