Bim Afolami, the MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, spoke about the problems experienced by young first-time house buyers at yesterday's Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs).

Mr Afolami described the Conservatives as "the party of aspiration" who know "the importance of home ownership".

He referred to estimates from Barclays bank that it takes the average first-time buyer eight years to save for a deposit, with buyers in the South East and London experiencing even longer time scales.

Mr Afolami asked Oliver Dowden, who is deputy prime minister and was stepping in for Rishi Sunak, what the government is "doing in order to improve the prospects for younger people who want to own their own homes?”

Home ownership among young people has fallen dramatically in recent decades. The Resolution Foundation think tank has found that home ownership among 25-34 year olds fell from 51 per cent in 1989 to 28 per cent in 2019.

Responding, Mr Dowden said that "almost 850,000 households have been helped to purchase a home since 2010" and that "in 2021, the number of people getting onto the property ladder for the first time was at a 20-year high, thanks to initiatives such as First Homes and the Help to Buy scheme".

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The First Homes initiative allows first-time buyers to purchase some properties at a price that is thirty per cent to fifty per cent lower than its market value. However, the Help to Buy equity loan scheme finished earlier this year, and it is no longer possible to open Help to Buy ISAs.

Mr Dowden also claimed that the Labour party had overseen "the lowest level of housebuilding since the 1920s" when they were in power between 1997 and 2010. Our graph shows the number of housing completions in England per calendar year from 1946 onwards.

Mr Dowden described Hitchin and Harpenden's MP as a "passionate champion" of this issue - Mr Afolami recently called for the government to build "lots of housing", including social housing, and said he would like the government to bring back help-to-buy ISAs at treble their previous value.

It is part of his push for the Conservatives to appeal to millennial voters, among whom they attract little support.

However, a range of politicians and experts believe that Help to Buy is not the answer, pointing to issues with supply as the primary cause of high housing costs.

These include Conservative MP Robert Courts - who, like Mr Afolami, is a 'Champion' for the Next Gen Tories organisation - the Centre for Cities and Adam Smith Institute think tanks, and the Priced Out campaign group.

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Both major parties are trying to convince voters that they are the best choice for first-time buyers.

Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour party, says that he wants Labour "to be the party of home ownership".

His party has announced that it would restore council-level housebuilding targets that are being scrapped by the government, and would set a target to increase home ownership levels to 70 per cent.

In 2003, 71 per cent of households in England were homeowners, but that figure had declined to 63 per cent by 2018.

Responding to this story, North Herts Labour and Co-operative group leader Cllr Elizabeth Dennis told the Comet: "Mr Afolami says he wants to see more millennials get on the property ladder, but his party has consistently stood in the way of our aspirations.

"With inflation at record highs and pay not keeping pace with the cost-of-living we can’t save enough for a deposit - the average property price in Hitchin is around £500,000, far beyond the reach of many.

"What’s worse, his government not only failed to fix the economy despite having 13 years, but in the space of a few weeks managed to trash it to the point that even those who have saved now can’t afford their mortgages thanks to the Tory mortgage time bomb, paying on average £3,000 a year more than before the Liz Truss budget.

"Add to this soaring rent costs - how can a working millennial earning just over £30,000 a year (the average for our generation) afford the average rent of £1,229 a month and save to buy a home?

"I am pleased however that Mr Afolami acknowledges we need more affordable homes and hope he now agrees with Labour’s long held position that affordability does not mean an arbitrary percentage of market rate but rather a genuinely affordable price point objectively assessed having regard to real world factors.

"I trust Mr Afolami will also work with North Herts Council to deliver the homes in our Local Plan so we can meet the housing needs of everyone in our district."