Tens of thousands fewer first-time buyers are getting on the property ladder as surging prices condemn a generation to a lifetime of renting, the Bank of England has found.
The number of first-time buyers has slumped by almost a quarter since 2006 as the housing crisis deepened with about 243,000 transactions made in 2018, its economists calculated.
The drop has not led to a significant rise in the average age of first-time buyers, as many young property hunters appear to have been frozen out of the market completely.
The figures will spark concern that a generation of young people have been permanently condemned to renting homes.
The average age of a first-time buyer rose to just over 31 in 2018 - only one year higher than it was in 2006, the Bank revealed after examining mortgage approvals.
Younger generations have been priced out of a housing market inflated by strong demand, ultra-low interest rates and the boom in buy-to-let landlords.
Even Britons in their mid-30s to mid-40s are three times more likely to be renting compared to 20 years ago, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Rob Wall, head of policy at the National Housing Federation, said the new data shows it is harder than ever to get a foot on the property ladder.
He said: “The real change has not been in the age of first time buyers, but in the income prospective purchasers now need to buy their first home."
Earlier this month the Government announced a two-month extension to the Help to Buy scheme to assist first-time buyers. However, the policy has been criticised for inflating prices. The deadline for new homes sold through the scheme was pushed back to March 31, 2021.
Mr Wall said ministers should consider shared ownership schemes and a major investment in social housing to tackle the problem.