Brown offers debt advice and affordable housing

The Prime Minister is planning to extend shared equity schemes to make home-owning more affordable for first-time buyers as part of a range of measures aimed at helping those hit by the credit crunch.

Those with mortgages who were hoping for a further cut in borrowing costs were left frustrated after the Bank of England kept interest rates at 5 per cent. But the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, and the Housing Minister, Caroline Flint, will announce a new package of measures to support home-owners facing difficulties.

The Prime Minister is to make affordable housing a centrepiece of the draft Queen's Speech to be unveiled next week as part of the efforts to revive the feel-good factor among Labour voters who deserted in droves at the local elections.

Gordon Brown aims to extend shared equity schemes and he is being pressed by some of his allies in the North-east to allow councils to embark on a major council-house building programme to create more homes for rent.

Today Mr Darling will announce an additional £9m over three years for debt advice provided by Citizens Advice Bureaux, which are reporting rising numbers of mortgage-payers running into financial trouble.

Ms Flint will also announce measures to prevent a rise in repossessions including expanded access to free legal representation at county courts for householders at risk of having their homes seized by banks or building societies.

However, Mr Brown's target of building three million new homes was dismissed by the television presenter Kirstie Allsopp.

Allsopp, the co-presenter of the Channel 4 housing show, Location, Location, Location, gave her backing to the Conservatives' plan to abolish stamp duty for first-time buyers on houses up to £250,000 and said Mr Brown's target of three million new houses was not achievable.