New information on housing and homelessness in twelve-year olds released today

New information on housing and homelessness in twelve-year olds released today
May 1, 2023

New research shows that many twelve-year olds live in secure and good quality housing, and that around three-quarters live in a home that their family own. However, this isn’t the case for all young people with some experiencing homelessness, involuntary house moves and homes with dampness and mould, which researchers say can severely impact their health and wellbeing.

The findings, published today, are based on information from around 4,500 twelve-year olds in the University of Auckland’s Growing Up in New Zealand longitudinal study which has been monitoring their housing conditions such as how often they move and quality of their housing, since they were born.

For the first time the study asked families specifically about their experiences of severe housing deprivation and homelessness.

As described by Associate Professor Kate Prickett, a family demographer and named investigator of the study, “around seven percent of young people experienced homelessness at some point in the last few years. Moving house was also very common for our families. Approximately half of young people had moved homes at least once between age 8 and 12. Looking at young people’s families’ most recent move, we found over half of families were making improvement moves- that is, like their family buying their own home or moving closer to their children’s school. However, around one in five of the moves were what we considered ‘involuntary’. That is, their landlord terminated their lease, or they had to move because of financial difficulties or family separation.”

Having secure and safe housing is known to have a profound impact on the health and wellbeing of young people.

“We know that housing stability matters for young people because moving a lot – particularly when it’s not a choice – can disrupt their familiarity with their school, neighbourhood and community. It’s particularly tough for young people and children with no home of their own, having to couch surf or living out of car and some even on the streets” says Associate Professor Polly Atatoa Carr, a public health physician and named investigator of the study.

“There is also an important relationship between moving house and housing insecurity. We found that for the young people in Growing Up in New Zealand the most common reason for an involuntary move for those living in a private rental was because landlords were selling the home”.

Quality of housing is known to have an important role in the health of young people, and the findings from the twelve-year olds showed that nearly one third were living in houses with dampness or mould problems. Young people living in public housing or private rentals were more likely to report problems with dampness or mould compared to those in a family-owned home.

“The quality, safety and security of our housing system is not only important for young people’s health outcomes, but also is an important target for policy and programmes that aim to improve the equity of health outcomes,” adds Associate Professor Atatoa Carr.

The research showed inequities in housing for young people. It found rangatahi Māori, Pacific young people, and families living in material hardship were more likely to live in private rentals or public housing, experience poorer housing conditions, severe housing deprivation and more frequent and involuntary moves.

According to Associate Professor Atatoa Carr, ongoing attention to those policies and programmes to improve housing security, quality and stability are necessary to meet government’s intentions for improving child and youth wellbeing as well as contribute to achieving health equity.

Growing Up in New Zealand is a University of Auckland UniServices study funded by the New Zealand Government and administered by the Ministry of Social Development.


For more information, please contact: 
Julia Crosfield 

Media and Communications, Growing Up in New Zealand  

027 282 4896 

Background for editors:  
Now We Are Twelve:  

See “Now We Are Twelve”:

This snapshot “Housing and homelessness” is the fourth of nine in a series, called “Now We Are Twelve”, looking at the development and wellbeing of twelve-year olds in New Zealand:

The Now We Are Twelve snapshot series is being published between April and June 2023 and covers the following topics: ethnic and gender identity (published 05/04/23); material hardship (published 05/04/23); food insecurity (published today); housing and homelessness (published today); COVID-19 pandemic; experiences of anxiety and depression; school engagement; impact of disability; and relationships.