Four out of five New Zealanders would go into serious financial hardship in order to buy a house, government analysis shows.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has released its new Housing Affordability Measure, which measures how much money households have left each week after meeting housing costs.
The benchmark is set at 2013 figures - when the average single person household had $662 left over, pre-tax.
Each extra adult added $331, and each extra child added $199.
But since the benchmark was set, 81 percent of renters would now fall below that level if they bought a house.
The figures are based on the costs renters would face if they bought a modest house in the same area where they were currently tenants.
However, the ministry's analysis is already out-of-date, as the latest data it used was from 2015.
While the analysis showed renting was more affordable than buying a house, two-thirds of tenants now have less money each week than the benchmark level.
The MBIE research showed that level of hardship had been most people's experience for many years, with 2013 the high-water mark.
Even allowing for inflation, 75 percent of renters who bought a house would have fallen below the benchmark in 2003.
And as property prices soared in the mid-2000s, the number of would-be home owners who fell below the benchmark reached 86 percent in 2007.
Auckland came out worst in the analysis, with 86 percent of potential home owners currently below the affordability benchmark.
Canterbury - where housing was at a premium following the 2011 earthquakes - fared slightly better, on 78 percent.
The ministry said it had wanted to do the analysis because existing housing affordability measures did not go far enough.
The often-quoted figure of 30 percent of income being the correct proportion for housing costs ignored disparities in income, and also big differences in the size and quality of homes being bought or rented, the ministry said.