By the end of the last property boom those without a foot on the property ladder were finding it much harder to afford a house than those who had already bought one.
A study by the Productivity Commission and The Treasury shows declining affordability for those without houses was likely to be most pronounced for single people on high incomes and middle-income couples.
The study, using Statistics New Zealand household income and wealth data, classifies ownership as unaffordable for individuals paying more than 30% of their income in housing costs.
Radio New Zealand's economics correspondent says it shows just 31% of those without a house would have been able to afford one in 2008, down from 81% in 2004.
Those on low incomes experienced little change to affordability, finding the housing market as out of their reach at the end of the period as it had been at the start.
Surging prices didn't make housing unaffordable for those on the highest incomes.
David Law of The Treasury says it was middle income couples and high income singles without houses that suffered the biggest increase in unaffordability.
"If you are a couple with high income then it would take quite a substantial change in housing market conditions before you really are struggling to afford because you might have two very good incomes, for singles, on the other hand, you've only got one income to work with".
Mr Law says encouragingly the study uncovered evidence those with houses weren't typically taking on more than they can afford.
He says recent falls in interest rates will have boosted affordability for all groups.
But he says the wide affordability gap between those with houses and those without suggests more needs to be done to help first-home buyers on to the property ladder.