Public housing and urban regeneration: maximising wellbeing

Our vision for this research is to improve the wellbeing of public housing tenants and their communities by providing evidence that leads to healthier and more environmentally sustainable development.

We are working in close partnership with public and community housing organisations to increase understanding of the wellbeing impacts of different kinds of public housing approaches. 

Public housing and urban regeneration

Housing stress in Aotearoa New Zealand

A shortfall of affordable and quality housing in Aotearoa New Zealand has led to a cascade of housing-related issues leading to poorer wellbeing outcomes. High housing prices and rents, increased market demand, and difficulties (such as infrastructure lags) in lifting the housing supply response have led to stress in the affordable and public housing sectors. Increased levels of household crowding, homelessness and reliance on emergency and transitional housing can reduce wellbeing.

This is a particular problem for some Māori and Pasifika households where the decline in homeownership has been the largest.
There is an urgent need for large-scale public housing developments to meet these needs, and the public housing sector is accelerating its response with increased public housing developments planned or underway.

Our research

In response to these challenges, we are undertaking a five-year, MBIE Endeavour funded research programme which studies and compares seven different public housing providers’ approaches to housing and urban regeneration projects.
Our multidisciplinary team from several collaborating partners is led by Distinguished Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman from the New Zealand Centre for Sustainable Cities.

We will study how the diversity of governance arrangements, financial planning, housing and urban design approaches of public and community housing organisations affect tenant outcomes. The pathways by which central government, local government, Māori-led organisations and other groups support wellbeing in their housing and communities need to be better measured and understood.

Wellbeing and sustainability outcomes

This research programme aims to contribute to knowledge of best public housing practice by:

  • identifying a range of positive wellbeing outcomes
  • analysing sustainable urban regeneration and carbon reduction efforts
  • understanding what enables socially inclusive communities and neighbourhoods
  • outlining how public housing providers can achieve the above elements while building efficiently and effectively at scale
  • understanding and informing housing models that support and enable hapū and iwi housing aspirations

In the short term, the findings will provide evidence to help improve strategic public housing policies and support more effective allocation of government funding. In the long term, the expectation is that this research can help enhance wellbeing and improve environmental sustainability through the provision of more effective, equitable and sustainable public housing and urban regeneration.


We have research partnerships with seven public and community housing organisations to study and compare their approaches to housing and urban regeneration.

Public and community housing models and partnerships

In partnership with each organisation, we are studying:

  • Governance and financial management reporting
  • Te Tiriti responsibilities and understandings
  • Wellbeing of tenants and community
  • Design quality and scale of housing,
  • Indoor environment and outdoor setting
  • Community formation and local urban design
  • Energy and transport use and associated carbon emissions

We are building on existing partnerships between public housing organisations and researchers through regular contact and mutual learnings. Together we will identify priorities, challenges and opportunities and find ways to put new knowledge into practice.

Programme partners

Emplan Ltd, Front-End Solar Ltd, Kōtātā Insight, Massey University, Motu, The Connective Ltd, Tukotahi, Victoria University of Wellington, Waikato University, Wall Consultants Ltd.


For more information please contact:
The New Zealand Centre for Sustainable Cities