A "lost generation" has given up on ever owning a home as average earners would need to double their wages to keep up with house prices, new research has found.
Shortages in affordable housing have led to 4.1 million of adults abandoning the dream of having the keys to their own property, according to a new survey - with 1.8 million of these aged 25 to 44.
House prices are so out of sync with wages that an average earner in some parts of England would need to make over £100,000 more a year to be able to afford a home in their area, compared to 1997, separate research discovered.
Experts warned of the "very serious social implications" of increasing numbers of adults still living in their childhood bedrooms following a first drop in home ownership in England since records began.
And campaigners called on the Government to urgently invest in new affordable housing stock, arguing that its Help to Buy scheme would only make matters worse for first-time buyers.
Campbell Robb, chief executive of housing and homelessness charity Shelter, said: "When you'd need to more than double your salary just to keep up with rising house prices, it is no surprise that the dream of a home of their own is slipping further out of reach for a generation.
"The reality is that successive governments have failed to build the affordable homes that this country needs, and as a result our housing shortage has reached crisis point.
"Despite the fanfare surrounding Help to Buy, pumping money into mortgage guarantee schemes is not the solution.
"This further inflates prices by increasing demand for an already limited number of homes, and will only make things worse for the next generation of first time buyers. The only solution is to build more affordable homes."
A study carried out by the charity comparing average earnings and house prices between 1997 and 2012 found that average earners would need a £29,000 pay rise to keep up with soaring house prices.
It also found that there is not a single area in England where wage and house price inflation had remained aligned over that 15-year period.
In the London borough of Hackney the average annual salary would need to increase by over £100,000 to be in line with the "astronomical" rise in house prices as the area gentrified.
People on average wages in Watford and Brighton & Hove would need an extra £47,000 each year to keep up with local house price inflation, and in Manchester £34,000 extra would be required.
Although Burnley in Lancashire had the smallest gap, £10,000 would still needed to be added onto the average salary there to put it in line with the rise in house prices.
The Castle Trust, an equity loans and property investment provider, warned that its own research showed that over the past 30 years the average cost of a home for first time buyers had increased by 480%.
The results of a poll of people 2,034 conducted by ICM on its behalf discovered that 27% of adults surveyed had given up on ever getting on the property ladder, including 28% of people aged 25 to 44.
The poll also found that just one in seven adults (14%) not currently on the property ladder thought they would be able to buy a home before they are 30.
More than half of people struggling to get on the property ladder (53%) found that raising a deposit was the main problem, according to the poll.
Up to 38% said they did not earn enough to own a house and a further 21% believe they would not be able to keep up with mortgage payments.
And one fifth (20%) said that they would be unable to buy their own home because their credit rating was not good enough to qualify for a mortgage.
With such a bleak outlook, respondents said they were hoping to be able to borrow from parents (12%), grandparents (5%) or receive an inheritance (9%).
Sean Oldfield, chief executive officer at Castle Trust, said: "The failure of the young to break into the housing market has some very serious social implications.
"Older generations know this and want to help - many have the resources to do so."
Housing Minister Kris Hopkins said: "Anyone who works hard and wants to own their own home should have the help they need to get on the property ladder. That's why we've introduced Help to Buy, which offers a valuable alternative to the Bank of Mum and Dad and is so far helping 28,000 people buy with a fraction of the deposit they'd normally require.
"Shelter fail to recognise that our efforts to cut the record deficit we inherited have helped keep interest rates at a record low and home ownership at its most affordable since 2007. Leading developers have said they'll build more as a direct result of the increased demand through Help to Buy, with housebuilding growing at its fastest rate for a decade."