Housing is what eventually limits the amount of population in your cities plus it has a major impact on the growth rate in a city. If you lack housing for 5 pops or more your city growth will stop completely. It’s important to keep enough housing available to ensure your cities keep growing.
The best way to increase housing at the start of the game is to establish cities next to freshwater sources, giving you a great start by granting 5 housing to your city. Adding sewers to the city district increases housing by 2 more, plus there are several other methods to utilize as well, like districts, government types, Great People, and policies.
Housing is increased by several things, like tile improvements, buildings, districts, civics and governments. If you lose housing for some reason you don’t lose any pops you already have, you just lose growth potential in the affected cities (read more about cities at this page on my website). It’s not the same as losing food production, in that case you will eventually lose pops unless the problem is fixed quickly.
The best way to get a good start on housing is to establish a city next to a freshwater source which is considered to be a river, lake, or oasis. This starts a city out with the ability to house 5 pops at the start. A bad site, which is a site without any direct access to any kind of water, will limit a city to only 2 pops and growth will be severely hampered from the very start.
If you need to found a city that isn’t close to a water source, for example to gain access to a strategic resource or for control of a chokepoint, building an aqueduct as quickly as possible will solve that problem. The limitation is that the aqueduct must be built between a freshwater source like a mountain, river or lake and the city center. Again, without a sufficient water supply, just like in real life, early city growth will be severely limited.
At the start of the game it’s more efficient to focus on making improvements at first since they are easy to create and usually provide other benefits as well. As your economy improves you can start dedicating some of your production resources to building structures that improve housing. You really don’t need to worry too much about housing at first anyway if you’ve established your cities next to a freshwater source like a river.
If you’re really in a crunch and need to increase housing quickly you can always purchase a building like a Granary. It is costly, a Granary costs 260 gold to purchase, but it’s effects are immediate. You will gain 2 more housing from it immediately plus an increase in 1 of food production.
If you need to know what to build first check out my build order page.
Buildings That Will Increase Housing The Most
Building a granary adds 2 housing and then adding sewers to the City District when they become available will add 2 more in housing capacity. Adding certain building to districts, like adding a Barracks to an Encampment or a Lighthouse to a Harbor District, will give a boost in housing capacity of +1.
Aqueduct Districts are one of the best methods in the early game to increase housing by 2 if you already have freshwater close by, or by as much as 6 if you don’t already have access to freshwater.
Tile Improvements That Increase Housing
Improvements, like farms, pastures and plantations provide less housing than buildings but are still worth pursuing since they typically have other benefits as well. For example, 2 farms will only give you 1 additional housing unit but they will give you 2 more food, and with the right Civics researched they can provide 3 additional food per turn. There are also civilizations that have tile improvements that only they have access to that will improve housing, like the Kampung that is only available to the Indonesian civilization.
Best Policy For Improving Housing
There are also policy cards that can improve housing for as long as they are in use, but you lose those benefits once you’ve changed that policy out for something else. The policy that gives the biggest housing improvement is the New Deal policy, which is available in the Modern Era. It gives an additional 4 housing per city and unless the Gathering Storm expansion is active you get 2 additional amenities but suffer 8 gold loss per turn in every city with more than 3 districts. With the Gathering Storm expansion active you still get the additional 4 housing per city and the 2 additional amenities per city, but you only get the additional amenities in cities that have 3 districts or more. With Gathering Storm active there is no longer any gold penalty for this policy.
Wonders are another aspect of the game affecting housing. Wonders also have other effects, like providing more amenities, improving production and food yields, and increases in faith but sometimes there are restrictions on where a Wonder can be built. For example, building the Great Bath (need to have the Gathering Storm expansion) increases housing in the city by 3 and also gives the added benefit of amenities and food increases, to name just a few. It can only be built on a floodplain tile.
Other Methods For Increasing Housing
The only Governor having an impact on housing is Liang the Surveyor. With the aquaculture promotion she provides a .5 increase in housing but with the Waterworks promotion she increases housing by 2 for every Neighborhood and Aqueduct District in the city. As an added benefit she also increases amenity output by 1 for every Canal and Dam district in the city.
The best city-state to be Suzerain of for increasing housing is the Mohenjo-Daro city-state. This city-state gives the boost of treating all of your cities as if they were next to a freshwater source like a lake. It’s like getting a housing boost of 4 for any cities that don’t have access to a source of any type of water.
If you have the Gathering Storm expansion active the city-state of Cathokia will give you housing benefits if you become its Suzerain. The ability to make the Cahokia Mounds improvement is opened up and it increases housing by 1. It increases housing by 1 more if you have the Cultural Heritage civic completed. This city-state also has the additional benefit of increasing amenities and gold for its associated cities.
Great People are another source for improving housing. The best Great Person to acquire for housing benefits is the Great Engineer Jane Drew, who provides a bonus of 4 housing in a city. She will also give the city she is activated in an additional 3 amenities.
Governments is another method for increasing housing in your civilization. The Classical Republic government is available after finishing the Political Philosophy civic. Establishing this type of government will give 1 more housing unit in all cities plus 1 more amenity as well if a city has a district. It will provide a 15% bonus toward acquiring Great People too.
A government type that gives an even better housing benefit is a Monarchy. This kind of government boosts housing by 2 in any city having medieval walls. If the Rise and Fall expansion is active you will also get a housing bonus that’s equal to the level of the walls constructed around your city.
A Democracy gives 1 additional housing per district.
How To Increase Population
The key to steadily increasing your civilization’s population is food and housing, with food being the first priority. Building Farms adjacent to each other is one of the best ways to start out with and is a great planning strategy. Once Feudalism is achieved you get a bonus of 1 food for farms that are next to each other.