Young Northland families are being cut from the streets they grew up in as Whangārei's affordable suburbs dwindle.
The number of Whangārei suburbs with an average property value of $1m or above has jumped from two to 29 over the last two years, according to OneRoof data.
First-home buyers Tania Wilson and her partner have watched first-hand the house prices of previously affordable areas skyrocket over the last two years.
"You're looking at half a million for one right in the middle of Ōtangarei... that is a lot of money and it puts a lot of people out of reach," Wilson said.
Wilson is a stay-at-home mum of two children under two. She's also a student, studying a legal executive diploma from a rental home in Manu.
Two-and-a-half years ago she began looking for a house for her young family, and she's had no luck since.
"I was working part-time and studying and my partner was working full-time. We had a very good deposit so we approached the bank and it approved us for a loan."
At that point, Wilson said there were a few houses around, but it was early stages in the couple's first time in the house-buying market.
"Then Covid hit, and that put a big stall on the market. Houses weren't really being put up for sale and the banks pretty much closed down.
"We just never really found anything that was what we were after, and the price obviously just kept going up."
It's not just the price that's an issue for Wilson - she says the supply of houses that are appropriate for young families in Whangārei is abysmal.
"We've got two young children to think about, we can't just buy any old home that you know is leaky.
"When we first started going to open homes there would probably be around 10 people but you go to a home now there are 30, 40, 50 people."
While Wilson saw a lot of families at the open homes, she thinks most of the homes she visited aren't being purchased by Northlanders.
"Even if you did make an offer, how are you going to compete?".
Two years ago the couple made an offer on a house at a private sale, but even back then they were against five other offers and they missed out.
Two years later, the number of Whangārei suburbs with an average property value of less than $500,000 has dropped from 16 to just one.
Wilson and her partner have lived in Northland all their lives. They both grew up in Dargaville, where they have also been looking for a house, and moved to Whangārei in their young adulthood.
"We've got no option anywhere."
Until a better option arises, Wilson and her family remain in a small rental in Manu, which she is thankful for, but it is far from her dream home.
"There's mould that grows, just from this year of us living in such a small space."
As house prices rise, the pair have had to get their loan re-approved more than once, and Wilson said they are lucky that their rental hasn't increased in price so they can continue saving.
"Thankfully we have been able to save money to keep up with the equity of that loan.
"But in all honesty, that loan amount is not enough to buy a house in this market right now."
Zest Brokers loan ranger Sandeep Maisuriya agreed that house prices in Whangārei have "substantially inflated."
"It is almost still near impossible for first-home buyers to be able to purchase anything.
"Our biggest challenge to date is still the amount (of money) that people are asking for property and customers not being able to get a loan or deposit in the same vicinity."
Maisuriya said there are definitely a lot of people looking to buy a house in Whangārei, but recently he thinks buyers are holding back and potentially waiting for the market to slow down.
"What I've definitely seen in the Whangārei market.... is ample amount of inquiries but at the same time we are noticing that not every property is being sold at auctions."
Wilson and her family are now looking at other options, including building on one of their parents' land, but even that is proving to be difficult.
"My partner's parents decided to subdivide their land, which has been amazing. However, it's taken two years to complete that, it's still not even finished on the dotted line yet."
That's two years just for the completion of the paperwork for the subdivided land, with no house in sight.