Village houses usually have reed sides and a sloping roof thatched with sugarcane or coconut leaves; the posts are of ironwood, and braided cord takes the place of nails. More modern houses, especially in the towns, are built of wood, with roofs of corrugated iron. Unlike the village houses, they often contain more than one room and have verandas. In 1986, the housing stock totaled 15,091 units, of which 60% were European-style wooden houses, 17% were European houses of bricks or cement, 8% were Tongan houses of wood with iron roofs, 7% were Tongan thatch houses, and 4% had wooden walls with thatch roofs.
Rainwater is stored in concrete cisterns. With the help of WHO, underground fresh water has been tapped to improve the water supply. The success of the plan has led to the extension of fresh water supplies to villages on all major islands.
Tongan taxpayers are entitled to an allotment of land from the governments. Each urban Tongan taxpayer receives an annual rent subsidy in lieu of this land allotment.