Tauranga has out-ranked Auckland as New Zealand's most unaffordable city, according to a major global study out today which showed Auckland's improving affordability meant the city moved from the world's fourth to the ninth most expensive city to buy a house out of 92 major city markets.

The annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey showed Auckland's housing is not as unaffordable as it has been in previous years and eight other cities are more expensive.

In Tauranga, people must spend nearly nine years of their full household income to buy a house, whereas Aucklanders are slightly better off, taking just over eight years to be able to buy a place, the survey showed.

Due to its size, Tauranga is not classified as a major housing market in the list of 92 cities, hence it does not appear ahead of Auckland on the shorter list.

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But on the more comprehensive list, Tauranga heads off Auckland by one place.

Christchurch-based Hugh Pavletich, one of the study's authors, expressed concern about the Bay of Plenty city: "Why has Tauranga been so slow responding to this crisis that has been staring them in the face for years?"

And despite Auckland's change in rankings, he said this country had a major problem.

"Auckland and New Zealand housing is still very much severely unaffordable," Pavletich said.

In 2016, Auckland was the world's fifth least affordable city but last year it slipped to fourth place, tailing only Hong Kong, Sydney and Vancouver as having the least accessible housing market.

But the pressure appears to have eased markedly now because the latest survey shows Hong Kong, Sydney, Vancouver, San Jose, Melbourne, Los Angeles, Honolulu and San Francisco head off Auckland.

The most affordable housing markets are all areas of the United States, many of which suffer severe economic depression, poor job prospects, loss of industry, low incomes and little economic growth.

The world's most affordable cities are Rochester, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Buffalo, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, Detroit and St Louis, Demographia says.

The survey examined 92 major housing markets where Auckland featured ninth.

But a much larger sample of 293 cities from around the world showed Auckland in 13th place.

The survey compares incomes to house prices, calculating a median multiple based on the median house price divided by median household income. That gives the number of years of full income it would take to pay off a house.

Demographia says Aucklanders must use 8.8 years of full household income to be able to afford to buy a median-priced house.

On the larger sample of 293 cities, Auckland features at place number 13 as the world's least affordable, behind Hong Kong, Sydney, Vancouver, Santa Cruz, San Jose, Melbourne, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Honolulu, San Francisco, Salinas-Monterey in California and Tauranga.

Christchurch and Dunedin constitute New Zealand's most affordable housing market, the survey found, appearing in place 226, with house buyers needing 5.4 years of full income to buy a median-priced home.

Quotable Value said this month Tauranga home values increased 3.2 per cent year on year or $21,528 from an average value of $672,197 in December 2016 to $693,725 last month.

Demographia said New Zealand's unaffordable housing meant "public opinion placed the issue to the top of the policy agenda in the last three national elections. In the 2017 election, the Opposition Labour Party unveiled a focused housing affordability programme and was able to form a ruling coalition with two other parties.

"The resulting sixth Labour Government intends to increase housing supply throughout Auckland, including both urban fringe and infill development. Critically, the Government intends to implement affordable infrastructure financing options for new development," Demographia's commentary on New Zealand said in the 50-page report.

'Where's the affordable housing for young families?'

Dan Randall sees new retirement villages popping up across Tauranga and wonders – where's my village?

"Where's the affordable housing for young families in a safe, quiet area?"

The 28-year-old Mount Maunganui security worker, his pregnant partner Kelda Richardson-Wait, 24, and her 4-year-old daughter have moved four times across three cities – Auckland, Tauranga and rural Hamilton - in the last year searching for somewhere with good jobs and affordable housing.

Kelda Richardson-Wait, Dan Randall and their four-year-old daughter. Photo/supplied
Kelda Richardson-Wait, Dan Randall and their four-year-old daughter. Photo/supplied

"We're just trying to find somewhere we can get a foot in the door and get ahead."

They landed in Tauranga late last year because Randall went to high school here and always wanted return to raise his family here, but it has been tough going so far.

The family spent their first couple of months living above a friend's place in Paengaroa because they could not find a rental they could afford in the city.

They now have a place near where Randall is training to be a volunteer firefighter, but he said there was not much money left over after paying rent to save towards their dream of buying a home - something that would be even further out of reach if he wanted to stay in the Mount.

He was not surprised Tauranga had overtaken Auckland to have New Zealand's most unaffordable housing.

"That's 100 per cent right. It has changed a lot."