The 2018 Census shows 191,646 homes (10.3%) throughout the country were unoccupied but in Auckland just 7.3% were unoccupied 

The 2018 Census shows 191,646 homes (10.3%) throughout the country were unoccupied but in Auckland just 7.3% were unoccupied 
Photo: Marine 69-71

There was a slight drop in the percentage of unoccupied homes in the 2018 Census compared to the 2013 Census, although Auckland went against the trend.

According to the latest Census data released by Statistics NZ, there were 1,855,929 dwellings throughout New Zealand in the 2018 Census, with 191,646 (10.3%) of them unoccupied.

That was down slightly from the 10.6% of homes unoccupied in the 2013 Census.

Most major centres recorded a fall in the percentage of unoccupied homes between the 2013 and 2018 censuses, including Whangarei, Hamilton, Tauranga, Napier, Hastings, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch, Queenstown-Lakes and Dunedin (see the table below for the figures for all Territorial Authority areas throughout the country and the Local Board areas in Auckland).

However Auckland went against the trend.

Although the percentage of homes that were unoccupied was lower in Auckland than in the entire country, it increased from 6.6% in the 2013 Census to 7.3% in the 2018 Census.

Of the 21 Local Board areas within Auckland City, the percentage of unoccupied homes increased in 18 of them, with Rodney and Puketapapa the only areas to record declines while Maungakiekie-Tamaki was unchanged.

Not surprisingly the areas around the country with the greatest percentages of unoccupied dwellings were those with large numbers of holiday homes, including Great Barrier Island 50.9%, Waiheke 35.5%, Thames-Coromandel 49.4%, Taupo 31.9%, Ruapehu 33.4%, MacKenzie District 42.2% and Queenstown-Lakes 28.3%.

The lowest percentages of unoccupied dwellings were in the Puketapapa Local Board area in Auckland 4.2% (see map below for the local board boundaries in Auckland) plus the Howick and Manurewa local board areas in Auckland, both with 4.8%, and Porirua 4.7% and Upper Hutt 4.8%.

Several factors can influence the percentage of dwellings that are unoccupied at any time, including the number of people travelling away from home, the prevalence of holiday homes and the number of rental properties that are in between tenancies.

Rural areas with falling populations can also have higher levels of unoccupied dwellings.

A better picture of the reasons for the occupancy trends in different areas will emerge once tenure data from the 2018 Census becomes available.

The comment stream on this story is now closed.

Percentage of Dwellings Unoccupied in 2018 Census Compared to 2013 Census
Territorial authority and Auckland local board area  Occupied Dwellings 2018  Unoccupied Dwellings 2018 Total Dwellings 2018 % Unoccupied 2018 % Unoccupied 2013
Far North District 23,055 6,417 29,472 21.8% 20.6%
Whangarei District 33,009 4,878 37,887 12.9% 14.6%
Kaipara District 8,844 3,186 12,030 26.5% 27.1%
Auckland 498,789 39,393 538,182 7.3% 6.6%
Thames-Coromandel District 12,924 12,600 25,524 49.4% 49.9%
Hauraki District 7,914 1,314 9,228 14.2% 15.0%
Waikato District 25,026 2,649 27,675 9.6% 9.8%
Matamata-Piako District 12,921 924 13,845 6.7% 6.9%
Hamilton City 55,068 3,096 58,161 5.3% 5.4%
Waipa District 19,581 1,254 20,835 6.0% 6.2%
Otorohanga District 3,519 723 4,242 17.0% 17.9%
South Waikato District 8,538 1,134 9,675 11.7% 10.9%
Waitomo District 3,411 831 4,239 19.6% 20.0%
Taupo District 14,094 6,588 20,682 31.9% 31.8%
Western Bay of Plenty District 18,603 3,441 22,041 15.6% 15.7%
Tauranga City 50,739 4,884 55,626 8.8% 9.0%
Rotorua District 25,236 3,228 28,464 11.3% 11.2%
Whakatane District 12,564 1,626 14,190 11.5% 11.6%
Kawerau District 2,511 222 2,733 8.1% 11.4%
Opotiki District 3,261 972 4,230 23.0% 22.8%
Gisborne District 16,509 1,929 18,435 10.5% 10.2%
Wairoa District 3,015 1,101 4,113 26.8% 23.8%
Hastings District 28,263 2,181 30,444 7.2% 8.0%
Napier City 23,781 1,431 25,215 5.7% 6.8%
Central Hawke's Bay District 5,436 861 6,297 13.7% 15.9%
New Plymouth District 31,092 2,487 33,579 7.4% 7.1%
Stratford District 3,699 357 4,059 8.8% 8.9%
South Taranaki District 10,707 1,248 11,958 10.4% 11.1%
Ruapehu District 4,665 2,343 7,011 33.4% 34.1%
Whanganui District 18,153 1,557 19,710 7.9% 9.6%
Rangitikei District 5,742 933 6,675 14.0% 13.8%
Manawatu District 11,232 1,053 12,282 8.6% 9.2%
Palmerston North City 30,618 2,016 32,631 6.2% 6.1%
Tararua District 7,032 858 7,893 10.9% 12.1%
Horowhenua District 13,302 2,391 15,693 15.2% 16.1%
Kapiti Coast District 21,906 2,892 24,798 11.7% 12.4%
Porirua City 17,883 882 18,765 4.7% 5.4%
Upper Hutt City 15,912 801 16,710 4.8% 5.4%
Lower Hutt City 37,278 2,178 39,456 5.5% 5.6%
Wellington City 75,201 4,908 80,109 6.1% 6.8%
Masterton District 9,987 1,368 11,355 12.0% 12.5%
Carterton District 3,657 459 4,119 11.1% 9.9%
South Wairarapa District 4,395 1,269 5,664 22.4% 23.9%
Tasman District 19,770 3,231 23,001 14.0% 12.7%
Nelson City 19,980 1,230 21,213 5.8% 6.6%
Marlborough District 18,912 3,237 22,149 14.6% 18.1%
Kaikoura District 1,506 714 2,220 32.2% 27.5%
Buller District 4,458 1,113 5,571 20.0% 17.4%
Grey District 5,391 1,149 6,537 17.6% 15.2%
Westland District 3,849 888 4,734 18.8% 19.5%
Hurunui District 4,986 1,737 6,720 25.8% 23.7%
Waimakariri District 22,098 1,356 23,454 5.8% 8.1%
Christchurch City 139,089 12,879 151,968 8.5% 12.0%
Selwyn District 20,754 1,920 22,677 8.5% 9.1%
Ashburton District 13,083 1,554 14,640 10.6% 9.2%
Timaru District 19,194 1,689 20,883 8.1% 7.1%
Mackenzie District 2,031 1,485 3,519 42.2% 45.7%
Waimate District 3,309 573 3,882 14.8% 12.9%
Chatham Islands Territory 282 48 333 14.4% 21.5%
Waitaki District 9,276 2,124 11,400 18.6% 17.3%
Central Otago District 8,850 2,121 10,974 19.3% 23.0%
Queenstown-Lakes District 13,719 5,418 19,140 28.3% 28.5%
Dunedin City 48,627 3,906 52,533 7.4% 7.8%
Clutha District 7,116 1,500 8,619 17.4% 18.6%
Southland District 12,165 3,048 15,210 20.0% 19.6%
Gore District 5,109 453 5,562 8.1% 8.9%
Invercargill City 21,645 1,410 23,055 6.1% 6.0%
Total, territorial authority areas 1,664,283 191,646 1,855,929 10.3% 10.6%
           
Auckland Local Board Areas          
Rodney Local Board 22,938 4,419 27,357 16.2% 17.2%
Hibiscus and Bays 36,858 3,048 39,909 7.6% 6.5%
Upper Harbour Local Board  19,809 1,455 21,261 6.8% 5.2%
Kaipatiki Local Board Area 28,986 1,647 30,633 5.4% 4.1%
Devonport-Takapuna  20,901 1,587 22,485 7.1% 6.1%
Henderson-Massey  35,526 2,043 37,569 5.4% 4.4%
Waitakere Ranges  17,325 1,314 18,639 7.0% 7.3%
Great Barrier Local Board  552 573 1,125 50.9% 47.6%
Waiheke Local Board  3,780 2,079 5,862 35.5% 32.4%
Waitemata Local Board  35,007 4,155 39,162 10.6% 10.3%
Whau Local Board  24,738 1,293 26,031 5.0% 4.5%
Albert-Eden Local Board  32,142 2,133 34,278 6.2% 5.4%
Puketapapa Local Board  17,379 768 18,150 4.2% 5.0%
Orakei Local Board  30,063 2,385 32,445 7.4% 6.2%
Maungakiekie-Tamaki 24,483 1,398 25,881 5.4% 5.4%
Howick Local Board Area 43,725 2,196 45,921 4.8% 4.3%
Mangere-Otahuhu Local Board  17,925 975 18,900 5.2% 4.6%
Otara-Papatoetoe 20,469 1,140 21,606 5.3% 4.1%
Manurewa Local Board 23,619 1,200 24,819 4.8% 4.4%
Papakura Local Board 17,094 1,152 18,243 6.3% 5.0%
Franklin Local Board 25,464 2,433 27,897 8.7% 8.2%
Total Auckland local boards 498,789 39,393       538,182 7.3% 6.6%

Auckland Local Board Areas Map

*This article was first published in our email for paying subscribers. See here for more details and how to subscribe.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.

31 Comments

Comment Filter

Highlight new comments in the last hr(s).

Time for the vacant homes tax in Auckland.

Just nationalise them if they remain vacant for a period of time, like 18 months or so. I've solved Kiwibuild.

How many vacant homes are government houses owned by housing nz. Until recently there was 57 state houses in jebson place Hamilton which were vacant for 8 years. Someone had the good idea to redevelop with a similar number of homes (not much gain there) at tremendous cost. There is only 10 built and the builder has gone into liquidation

I had in mind only Auckland for these policies. Like the article suggests, the vacant homes thing seems to be improving everywhere but Auckland, so only Auckland needs that extra nudge.

Vacant Housing NZ homes is not limited to Hamilton. Whenever a tenant shifts out their houses can sit empty for months or longer. Nz should have squatters rights like they do in Aus, that would solve the vacant house conundrum (Said tongue in cheek)

Would make sense given a good number of rental properties (particularly in Christchurch) resemble squatter camps.

Those houses in jebson place were not fit for anyone to live in

Bringing back unloopholed land tax using it to reduce GST and income tax would solve it while also increasing land usage productivity and efficiency across the board, while also reducing the amount of household debt as property would become more affordable.

Hear hear.

If land tax is successful in reducing land prices, it will also reduce government income (while government expenditure is always increasing). They have to then increase GST and income tax to offset the lost tax.
Also, the additional tax will either be passed on by landlords to their tenants (in which case rents will increase, thus the landless will pay the tax) or the landlords will have to pay the tax themselves (thus reducing the value of their assets). It is obvious that the former is not what you intend. But if the latter, why people should buy property if renting is cheaper than owning?
Finally less debt means nothing if the reason for the less debt is a future liability over your asset. It is like buying a very cheap second hand car because it consumes fuel at a rate four times of a more expensive car. You are not really wining anything. In both cases of a high debt vs a high tax regime, you still need to have a reliable and steady source of income to be able to hold on to your asset. Is it any different if it is government who sells your house because you cannot pay your taxes or if it is the bank because you cannot pay your installment?

When implementing land tax, you need to do it incrementally, so as you increase LVT, you can monitor how it impacts land values, and you'll be able to decrease the other taxes accordingly to maintain a desired tax revenue as a % of GDP. They are also able to estimate how much land values will be impacted by land taxes. Several years ago Victoria university performed a study that was used for the National government's TWG, and they suggested that a 1% LVT would result in a 15% fall in land values. I imagine it's implementation now would result in a larger fall. - https://www.victoria.ac.nz/sacl/centres-and-institutes/cagtr/twg/publica...

Land taxes cannot be passed on, and will simply result in reduced yields which is why in negatively impacts land values. Landlords are already getting from the market what they are able to. "A land value tax has progressive tax effects, in that it is paid by the owners of valuable land who tend to be the rich, and since the amount of land is fixed, the tax burden cannot be passed on as higher rents or lower wages to tenants, consumers or workers." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Land_value_tax#Tax_incidence

Less debt means less money being sucked up by the Australian banks and sent offshore. Instead it's a shift of revenue away from the banks and instead, due to LVT, towards the government which spends the money in New Zealand and for the benefit of New Zealanders. It's pretty much a shift from paying interest on mortgages to instead paying tax to the government which would have a significantly positive benefit for the NZ economy, especially considering the decrease in economically destructive taxes like GST and income tax which disincentivise trade, and labour respectively.

The land itself has a value which comes from it's expected economic return. If you're holding land that isn't returning enough to pay the tax, then you're not utilising that land for an optimal purpose, and it arguably should be sold to somebody who will. That is the main mechanism for increasing the productivity and efficiency of land occupation, and one of LVT's finest features.

The impact of a land tax is on introduction. The future prices will already discount the price of the land for reduced cash flows. Off course the existing landowners will be unable to do anything about a newly introduced tax. But moving forward this will be reflected in anything land related (including rent)
Also, if land prices drop, then the base for taxing will deteriorate. Pegging the tax revenue to GDP to maintain a fix level of tax income is misleading. If land prices fall, the GDP will surely fall, and while X% of GDP will remain the same, the government income will reduce in absolute term (e.g. $80b) unless they increase other taxes.
I agree with your point that tax to government is better for the country but from the financial view point of the payer (and i made it clear that I meant it from the financial view point of the payer), it makes no difference as both our cash outflows.
Finally, for any significantly mortgaged land, the same concept applies for productivity and efficiency. It only makes a difference for debt-free owned property that is not generating enough cash flows. Owner-occupied households who have fully paid of their mortgage can still lose their house if they are unable to pay taxes. If you have no salary/wages you have no PAYE liability. But if you lose your job, you have to sell your house. So people with money will buy and take control of stuff from people with no money.
Land tax only make a temporary difference when it is introduced. It hugely and negatively impacts landowers and benefits the landless. But it is a one-off impact and the market will soon offset any such effect making it a redundant mechanism

Like you say, after land tax is implemented, the drop only happens once, however it will reduce the bubble and pop nature of land values permanently into the future which also helps to stabilise our economies and reduce the depths of recessions/depressions. The "deterioration" of land values only happens on implementation of the land tax so over time the land values will increase alongside inflation and growth in GDP which means the LVT revenue will also increase with our societal growth. Furthermore the cherry on the cake is that you're taking money people are currently paying as interest to banks, redirecting it to the government so you can reduce taxes in other areas on people. That is a massive net reduction in what people will be spending in terms of taxes plus interest. The only loser is the banks and large landholders both of which hardly need our sympathy. And finally that increased efficiency and productivity of landholdership would result in reduced rents as tenancy space supply expands in competition for tenants as pressure is increased on landholders and land is sold to those who would develop it optimally.

I think it's fair to suggest that maintaining a healthy percentage of government revenue as a % of GDP is a good idea. Here's all the countries for comparison. Compare with the successful economies to see what is the most effective rate. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_tax_revenue_to_GDP_ratio

"Owner-occupied households who have fully paid of their mortgage can still lose their house if they are unable to pay taxes" - and such is the cost of exclusively monopolising an economically significant portion of land. It takes a huge toll on our society landholders inefficient occupation of land. It's the reason why there's a housing crisis in a country as big as New Zealand with such a small population. Land is fixed in supply. There needs to be incentives and consequences involved in exclusive occupation of our most important natural resource. This is key to the economic performance of our nation. Land is a fundamental of economics.

It's quite clear that permanently lower land prices, lower household debt, more efficient and productive occupation would have significant and ongoing positive effects on the economy and quality of life of the nation.

I recommend reading Henry George's "Progress and Poverty" for the masterclass. It was at one stage the second most popular book in the world behind the bible. Proponents of his works include Albert Einstein, and even the right wing posterchild Milton Friedman was a strong proponent.
https://oll.libertyfund.org/sources/4181-ebook-pdf-george-progress-and-p...
Einstein on George: https://qph.fs.quoracdn.net/main-qimg-5df4ac7bd96b8cdedf2bc88523f5b676
Friedman on George: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yS7Jb58hcsc

Auckland clearly needs to follow Vancouver's successful example with their Vacant Homes Tax at 1% of their overall value, that would probably fund our Kiwi builds in their first year mostly funded by this tax. We know the majority of those paying the new tax would be Overseas Investors. Anyone who can afford to leave their homes empty in Auckland, can certainly afford to pay an extra tax on it otherwise they can simply sell or rent it out.
Financial Post article: Vancouver to rake in $30 million from empty homes tax in first year
https://business.financialpost.com/real-estate/vancouver-to-rake-in-30-m...

Largely a survey of holiday homes (or dual residences for other reasons). Why would there be rental vacancies in a supposedly dire housing shortage?

It's a snapshot in time. There is always going to be a small gap where a tenant leaves before he is replaced by another tenant. In a housing shortage, that gap will be very short, but in any one moment, there will still be at least some number of properties that are currently in that gap.

Yes, sure, I understand that, which is why this broad data is of little value. We need to know if rental vacancies are growing or falling from year to year, or month to month, disproportionately to population growth.

Yeah, that would be better, obviously. But since it was hard enough getting even this broad data, I wouldn't hold my breath.

Perhaps because a few, possible even foreign, owners bought them as an investment banking on capital gains and didn't want to rent them out as they saw that as too much hassle? We have seen a few identify that over the years on this site. Some the owners want to be empty, but say they are trying to rent them and put ridiculous rents in place that no one will accept, it's about appearances. Others will be in a family for years and are just neglected.

The question is how do we get them into the housing pool?

What percentage of these empty homes are livable.

Phil Goff is speaking to Govt and NGOs about how these thousands of vacant Auckland properties could used to house the homeless.

Property investors with vacant properties will be asked to consider housing rough sleepers or people struggling to find affordable rentals.

A stroke of genius by Goff and a mayoralty election winner.

Phil need to look at the bigger picture for Auckland if he wants to be taken seriously. If Labour's goal is to make housing more affordable and reduce the cost of living they need to follow this shining and very successful example from Canada, that will help give them their electing win:-
Empty Homes Tax - City of Vancouver https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhQUkpubyiM

Goff could himself be homeless ... and jobless next month, it's in his own interests to speak to the govt and NGO's. Goff needs to go but who will replace him? JT ... yeah ... right

Does unoccupied mean people were away that day (holidaying etc), or longer term?

If it's a long-term figure than 5-6% in Auckland is a lot of workers being unnecessarily displaced to urban boundaries adding to transport infrastructure stresses. Land tax to reduce this wastage and get economically inactive people moving out of homes close to city centers please.

There will always be empty house's, holiday homes, vacant rentals, people like ourselves that have 3 homes that are occupied at different times. If a tax was suggested then no info of such would appear in census returns.
How about our leaders getting inventive and dropping GST of FHB's Land/build's ?
The last thing this country needs from this COL is more taxes !

Do you air bnb or similar when not using the house? I have heard that some coromandel HH owners (different area to you) do that

Hi Houseworks - No we don't air bnb as friends and family also have access.

As long as you're renting out your property for more than six months in a year and you're not in a large city center you wouldn't be targeted for an empty homes tax.

Ha. That's a joke to suggest renting for six months at a time ... LLs are already criticized for one year tenancies.

Re Auckland
Just out of interest, why would the vacancy rates be high in Waitemata local area board area relative to other residential areas in Auckland? This area is not traditionally known for a large number of holiday homes like Waiheke and Great Barrier, and possibly Rodney.

FYI - unoccupied houses in Waitemata are at 10.6%