Labour leadership contender Ed Balls has called for an extra £6bn to be invested to build an additional 100,000 affordable homes in a major new programme of house-building.
Balls was joined by wife Yvette Cooper – the shadow work and pensions secretary – for the first time on the campaign trail when they visited a new housing development in central London to highlight his plan.
He argued that the Government should fund a rapid expansion of house-building from a £12bn “windfall” available because state borrowing for 2009-10 came in at £155bn - lower than Alistair Darling’s forecast of £167bn in the March Budget.
The shadow education secretary believes his plan could create up to 750,000 jobs in the private sector, boosting economic growth as the UK and global economic recovery remain fragile, and tackling the urgent shortage of decent affordable housing.
He admitted that Labour’s pre-election plans to build 176,000 social homes over four years were “too cautious” and acknowledged that the party was “late in recognising the importance of building more homes and more affordable homes” while in office.
A massive boost in house-building would “exemplify the economic alternative we need right now, and expose the myth that cuts can somehow produce jobs and growth”.
“The truth is that whilst we made progress, Labour leaders over several decades never paid enough sustained attention to housing to make it the priority it deserved. That must change,” Mr Balls said.