More than 80% homes in England are too expensive for a typical working family trying to get on the property ladder, a report has found.
Housing charity Shelter, which analysed more than 325,000 properties with at least two bedrooms for sale across England, found that just 17.9% of them were within the financial reach of a household with children on an average local wage, leaving the remaining 82.1% beyond their means.
Just 86 properties were found to be affordable to local families in the whole of London, compared with 16,134 in the North West.
The government has rejected calls for single person council tax discounts to be scrapped for people with larger homes.
Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis said: "Single person council tax discount is a long-standing feature of the council tax system, reflecting the fact that single adults make less use of local services than larger households.
"We have absolutely no plans to change this discount, and we have rejected the LGA's calls for a Bridget Jones tax."
People living alone in large homes should lose their council tax discount to free up more money for struggling families on low incomes, local authorities say.
Single dwellers currently receive 25% off their council tax bill, but under new proposals the Local Government Association (LGA) wants councils to be able to adjust the discount for working people living alone in homes rated council tax band E and above.
Its own analysis has shown that it is costing councils more than £200 million a year to give the compulsory discount to people living in such properties, which are typically bigger and more expensive than the average family home.
At the same time, it said one in three local authorities expects they will have to reduce council tax support for families on low incomes because of a major shortfall in Government funding for the subsidy.
Property sales in England and Wales grew at their fastest annual rate in 10 years in the six months to September 2013, according to a report by Lloyds Bank.
Across England and Wales, 98% of towns saw an annual increase in sales, compared with a year earlier, when 26% of towns saw a year-on-year increase.
The report, which used Land Registry figures, found there were 396,756 house sales in the six months to September, marking an increase of more than 21% on the same period in 2012.
While this marks the highest year-on-year increase in a decade, property sales were still 41% below a 2006 market peak of 673,699.
Home owners wanting to take their second step on the property ladder face some of the toughest market conditions ever seen, a study has said.
The cost for a "second stepper" to trade up to their next home is 4.7 times annual average earnings - the second highest ratio since records began 25 years ago. The situation has improved on a year ago, when the ratio stood at 5.2, according to Lloyds TSB's home movers review.
The study raised concerns that the high hurdles still faced by this sector are creating a "bottleneck" in the housing market, by limiting the choice available to first-time buyers and creating a greater scarcity of potential home buyers higher up the chain.
Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation, has complained about the Chancellor's decision to keep the empty property rate tax, which taxes empty properties at the same rate as occupied ones: