Auckland's housing crisis has helped to drive a net 38,000 people out of the city to other parts of New Zealand in the past six years, a new report says.
The Salvation Army's annual "state of the nation" report says house prices and rents have skyrocketed in Auckland since 2011, while prices have hardly changed or even fallen elsewhere.
It says net outflows averaging 6300 Aucklanders a year to other parts of the country have partially offset net inflows from overseas which have jumped from 10,200 in 2011 to 36,400 in the past year.
The six-year loss of 38,000 people to other parts of New Zealand is equivalent to the urban population of Whanganui.
The report says life in New Zealand is getting better in many ways. Crime, welfare, teen pregnancy, infant mortality, alcohol consumption and gambling are all falling, while real wages are rising.
But it says Auckland's housing "bubble" is worsening inequality, with the city's house prices up 20 per cent and rents up 5.7 per cent in the past year compared with a 1.5 per cent rise in wages.
Lawyer Martin Dillon, 32, and his wife Meilanni, 29, bought a house with a swimming pool on an 800sq m section in Hamilton for under $500,000, about half what they would have had to pay on Auckland's North Shore where Mr Dillon worked.
"It was possible in Auckland, but the prices still seem quite mad for what you ended up with," he said.
The couple, who are expecting their first child in April, have both found work in Hamilton and feel at home there.
"The area that we're in now in Hamilton, Pukete, feels like the area where I grew up in Auckland, Pt Chevalier," Mr Dillon said.
Pukekohe couple Kirsten and Dave Gordon, with two children aged 8 and 2, are buying a house in a new subdivision in Huntly for a fraction of Pukekohe prices.
"In Pukekohe in the area we were living, we were looking at anything from $650,000 to $950,000," Mrs Gordon said.
"In Huntly, we are paying in the high 300s for a brand new home with four bedrooms and two bathrooms. It's a no-brainer really, to be honest."
Mr Gordon will still commute to his job managing a car parts store in Manukau.
Harcourts agent Sandra Stewart, who is marketing the subdivision in Huntly East, said 85 per cent of her buyers in the past six months were from Auckland, and 80 per cent of those planned to live in Huntly.