Maori home ownership in Hawke's Bay has fallen 30 per cent in the past 27 years and is now one of the lowest in the country.
According to figures released by Statistics New Zealand, 39.1 per cent of Maori in Napier and 40.1 per cent in Hastings lived in owned homes - the rest live in properties owned by landlords or housing providers.
In 1986, almost six in 10 - 57.3 per cent - of Maori in Hastings lived in owned homes. Napier figures fell 21 per cent, from 49.5 to 39.1 per cent.
About 550 fewer Maori were living in their own homes in Hastings, despite the Maori population growing by more than 4000 in this time.
Owned homes included those with a mortgage.
Ngati Kahungunu chief executive Adele Whyte said the extent of the fall in Maori ownership was "a bit surprising".
She said affordable living in a safe, healthy home was important to well-being, and it was clear many people were not only being priced out of home ownership but rental properties too.
"Rental affordability overall is a problem for everybody across Hawke's Bay - Maori and non-Maori - and a lack of good-quality rentals as well," she said. "Overall, we all benefit if everybody's standard of living lifts. I think iwi definitely have a role to play."
Dr Whyte said iwi were "very interested" in helping more Maori into home ownership but she said it was a complex issue affected by many factors.
"There are so many areas of need. [We need to decide] where are we going to focus our efforts to make the most impact to lift the well-being of all people. Housing is a symptom of a bigger issue."
She said seeing people forced to live in cars and garages was troubling, and highlighted a need for central and local government to work with community groups to find solutions.
"I don't think it's acceptable. We're supposed to be a first-rate country - what's really going on here?"
The Maori Housing Network, part of Government agency Te Puni Kokiri, said it had an annual budget of about $15 million to support building projects to help Maori into secure and healthy homes.
Six new homes have been approved in Hawke's Bay, and the network was helping to build 36 more affordable homes for whanau around the country in the next two years.
It would also fund infrastructure costs, such as connecting houses to utilities, for 113 whanau homes on Maori land, and repairs to 223 homes.
All major ethnic groups had a reduction in ownership rates in the report, with Pacific peoples experiencing the largest drop - from 64 per cent in Napier in 1986 to 29.3 per cent in 2013.
Europeans living in owned homes in Napier and Hastings fell from 80.5 per cent in 1986 to 71.2 per cent in 2013.
The figures were from the 2013 Census.