Essential workers’ bubbles: Crowding, housing affordability and tenure

Kay Saville-Smith; Ian Mitchell

Abstract – Tuhinga Whakarāpopoto

Looking at housing for essential workers is important to protect our communities in the future because pandemics are likely to be more prevalent. During the COVID-19 lockdown in Aotearoa New Zealand, research was done on the housing of essential workers. This bulletin highlights that a substantial number of these workers are dealing with affordability stress and some are experiencing overcrowding. It also discusses that those essential workers in rental housing are most vulnerable to both affordability problems and problems with crowding.

Articles associated with this research – Karere Tūhono

Radio: Essential workers struggling with overcrowding at home

8 May 2020: RNZ Midday Report. A new Research Bulletin has found that some essential workers are dealing with overcrowding at home. The Building Better Affordable Housing for Generations team has found that while essential workers are out serving the nation they’re putting their children, partners, or housemates at risk due to a lack of space. Team co-leader Dr Kay Saville-Smith spoke to Mani Dunlop on RNZ Midday Report about the findings.


Keywords – Kupu Hāngai

Housing, house prices, crowding, overcrowding, renting, essential workers, COVID-19 response

Fields of Research – Āpure Rangahau

Pandemic response, Housing affordability


Date – Te Wā Whakarewa



Type – Te Auaha

Research Bulletin

Citation – Kupu Hautoa

Saville-Smith, K. & Mitchell, I. (2020). Essential workers’ bubbles: Crowding, housing affordability and tenure. Research Bulletin, 4 May 2020, for Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities Homes and Spaces for Generations: Affordable Housing for Generations, 7pgs. Wellington: BBHTC.