Is the Kiwi dream of owning a house slipping away?

Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand with a population of over half a million people. 

It's a gracious city, well-planned and still growing fast.

While some things have improved in New Zealand, homeownership isn't one of them.

The Kiwi dream of a quarter-acre pavlova paradise? That's now a flop.

And while some first-home buyers have had to vastly reduce their idea of paradise, others have given up completely.

"Homeownership is a deeply embedded part of being a Kiwi, so it feels like you are being excluded from being a Kiwi," says economist and author of Generation Rent, Shamubeel Eaqub.

"Certainly with my generation and the next  generation we are the lost generation - you are stuck."

But is it really so hard to get on the bottom rung of the ladder?

"It's always been hard to buy a house in New Zealand, it's always taken a compromise and a focus to get there," says Valocity property analyst James Wilson.

Most people nowadays hoping to buy a house need help from their parents.

"The bank of mum and dad is a really big thing, parents are helping their kids," say Eaqub. "The shift is happening because they see their kids and grandkids can't get into their own homeownership - people thought that people were just whining and that it wasn't real. But it turns out it is real."

But the parent bank is not an option for everyone.

A modern mortgage will suck so much more of the average income than it did 40 years ago. The world over, the standard house-price-to-income ratio is three.

That means a house costing three times a middle income is considered doable.

Nice one 1978. But go jump in the lake, 2018.

So it's no wonder fewer of us own homes today.

In 1978 owner/occupiers were 70 percent of the population. Last year it was 62 percent.

But is an 8 percent drop over 40 years a big deal?

"It's a very significant drop. If you look at homeownership in New Zealand, it pretty much rose from post-war until 1991 and it's been falling since then. Now it's the lowest level since the 1950s. So we've given up decades of progress," says Eaqub.

And it's not just bigger home prices - just getting a mortgage is a major mountain to climb.

"Absolutely the main barrier is the deposit. The repayments are lower than our rent. It' s the difference between being through the door and getting in the door. If we were in we'd have absolutely no problem," says first-home buyer Troy Rawhiti-Connell.

Saving up for that deposit takes years.

"Right now for first-home buyers, the biggest issue is getting the deposit together. It is such a great deal of money and it takes a lot of years to get there," says Eaqub. "Banks have really tightened up and they are unlikely to lend unless you have a big deposit."

But Wilson says fear is also holding some people back.

"We are getting this psyching-yourself-out occurring. By that I mean the size of the debt to take on is a scary figure. Of course, New Zealand outside that still offers some really affordable housing stock," he says.

House prices have tripled since 1994. With that brings the emergence of a new class systems, the have-homes and the have-nots.

"It feels like we are going down a path of landed gentry, where if your parents own, you too are likely to own," says Eaqub.

And there's sobering stuff for those lucky enough to have that mortgage albatross hung around their neck.

"It's gone from 25 years to 40 years, so you are going to spend your entire life trying to save a deposit and pay off your mortgage," says Eaqub.

Depressing, right? And it's not going to get any easier anytime soon - so maybe it's time to try something new.

"If we really want to get on top of it there's only one thing we can do. That's making renting better. We need to build a vast amount of new housing, build to rent," says Eaqub.

But despite the stats, we still have that idea of Pavlova paradise for everyone.

"Unfortunately New Zealand background of home ownership becomes a right. It can lead to a distorted view among the younger buyer groups," says Wilson.

"Looking at what you're trying to buy, move away from the attached two-bedroom unit towards a modern studio apartment. So there are still property types that could appeal and of course location wise."

"We're asked to make so many compromises and we just want a home and the reason we can't have a home is because property is about wealth accumulation and not about letting people settle into communities and live there with their families. That's what's wrong," says Rawhiti-Connell.

The Project.