Teachers and police priced out of owning their own home in Auckland's red-hot property market are calling for extra pay to bridge the growing financial gap.
A report by Wellington researcher Ian Mitchell has found that 78 per cent of the city's 109,000 households in paid work and in private rentals can't afford to buy a relatively cheap house at the "lower quartile" mark (the price below three-quarters of all houses sold).
That price in Auckland is now just over $600,000.
He warns that the economic consequences include a "growing inability of workers in essential occupations such as police, nurses and teachers to buy in areas in which they work".
Mt Albert Grammar School headmaster Dale Burden said the huge gap in housing costs between Auckland and the rest of the country made it increasingly difficult to recruit teachers from other regions.
"At the heart of the problem is that we have a collective agreement so teachers get paid the same all over the country, which is fine if you are living outside Auckland but unfortunately not for Auckland.
"So given that Auckland is growing, and there are more secondary school kids in Auckland than anywhere else, the time for an Auckland allowance has definitely arrived."
Police Association president Greg O'Connor said an Auckland pay "loading" might also become necessary for police officers.
"There has been a reluctance from Government to allow these things to be paid because of the cost implications," he said.
"But if the current situation continues in Auckland it might become an inevitability."
A first-year South Auckland policeman on the police starting salary of $53,000 said he and his wife, who works part-time in a call centre, and their three preschool-aged children could not even afford to rent a home. They lived in a single room in his parents' four-bedroom house with his parents and five of his younger siblings.
"My wife and two kids sleep in the bed. I sleep on the floor on the other side with my other son."
The 29-year-old man said he might be able to rent a home of his own when his wife goes back to fulltime work about six months after their fourth child is born early next year.
Mr Mitchell found that, if Auckland house prices keep rising at their historic average over the past 25 years of 6.5 per cent a year, and if mortgage interest rates returned to their long-term average of 7.45 per cent, then none of Auckland's working and private-renting households would be able to buy a house in the city by 2031.
"One would suspect that the recent growth in house prices that we've seen can't continue, and there will be some perhaps external trigger which alters the course of the market, whether that is net migration turning around and/or interest rates starting to go up," he said.
AUT University professor of work and employment Erling Rasmussen said British employers paid a "London weighting" of 15 to 20 per cent above national pay scales.
But Post Primary Teachers Association president Angela Roberts, an economics teacher, said an Auckland loading would only "put more money into the price of houses".
State Services Minister Paula Bennett said the Government was not considering an Auckland loading.
City prices kill dream
Teacher Dave Burton and occupational therapist Sophie Bayer earn $110,000 a year between them - and still can't afford to buy a house in Auckland.
The couple, who plan to marry and hope to start a family next year, pay $400 a week rent for a two-bedroom unit in Beach Haven, one of the cheapest parts of the city's North Shore.
They went to an open home recently for a "not particularly nice" two-bedroom flat in a brick-and-tile block in the same area.
"That ended up going for, I think, $560,000. That was well past our budget," Mr Burton said.
"Being able to come up with a deposit while still paying rent and everything else that you have to pay ... then actually managing to finance a mortgage of perhaps $400,000 as well as thinking about starting a family is just nigh on impossible," he said.
They are now thinking of buying in the Rodney area, where Ms Bayer's parents have a bach.
"I'm hoping for a job to come up around Mahurangi or Rodney College, because you can buy a home up there for $450,000 or even less," Mr Burton said.
Housing researcher Ian Mitchell said a household would have needed a combined income of $133,800 a year to buy a house at the Auckland lower-quartile price of $610,000 in March this year based on a 10 per cent deposit and a mortgage costing 30 per cent of their gross income.
Are you struggling to buy your first home in Auckland? Email our property reporter: email@example.com