Brown plans 'eco-towns' and cheaper housing

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Gordon Brown will detail his commitment to building hundreds of thousands of new homes to meet demand for social housing and help young people get a foot on the property ladder.

The Chancellor will emphasise his commitment today to build more than 200,000 new houses a year, including new homes for people on low incomes and a ground-breaking series of five environmentally friendly "eco-towns".

Mr Brown will use a whistlestop tour of marginal constituencies to flesh out his plans for tackling the housing crisis before turning his attention to the battle for the Labour leadership nominations at Westminster later this week.

He will outline his vision of a property owning democracy but will pledge to make developments environmentally sustainable.

Nominations for the Labour leadership open at 2.30pm today and will be closed on Thursday lunchtime. The Chancellor plans a push tomorrow to ensure that he has overwhelming support from all sections of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Yesterday, the Chancellor made tackling the shortage of new homes a theme of his leadership campaign, pledging more social housing for rent as well as affordable homes for buyers. He told the BBC: "When I was travelling round the country only in the last few days it's very very clear young couples [are] finding it difficult to buy their first home, many people [are] struggling to get into even rented accommodation at this stage.

"There is a housing problem that we've got to deal with and I'm going to set out the measures by which we will begin to solve the problem." Today, Mr Brown will set out his vision of Britain under his control as a "home-owning, asset-owning, wealth-owning democracy".

He told the BBC's Sunday AM programme: "There is a pent up demand. More households are being created than there are places for them I recognise that there is a challenge of modern society where young people want to buy or rent their own homes a lot earlier than previously. We have got to make it possible for that to happen.

"It shows that we are the party and the Government on the side of people with aspirations."

He added: "I would say a home-owning, asset-owning, wealth-owning democracy is what would be in the interests of our country because everybody would have a stake in the country."

Mr Brown outlined his commitment to zero carbon developments, including low-carbon power and transport schemes, as well as environmentally friendly businesses, local schools and other services.

But the Conservatives have accused Mr Brown of simply reannouncing a year-old policy and said a pledge to create 10 new eco-towns a decade ago had only yielded one in 10 of the promised homes.

Mr Brown will move into the second phase of his leadership campaign tomorrow when he turns his attention to Westminster. He will host a reception for the 352 Labour MPs as his campaign team attempts to maximise his already overwhelming support in Parliament.

Path to power

* TODAY Nominations for leadership and deputy leadership open at 2.30pm

* THURSDAY, 17 MAY: Nominations close at 12.30pm

* WEDNESDAY, 6 JUNE : Ballot papers sent to members

* FRIDAY, 22 JUNE close of ballot for Labour members, MPs and MEPs

* SUNDAY, 24 JUNE: New leader and deputy leader announced

* WEDNESDAY, 27 JUNE: New Prime Minister succeeds Tony Blair

How green is Brown?

* ROAD TRANSPORT In his last Budget, Gordon Brown signalled that car tax on the most polluting cars and 4x4s would rise to £300 and increase still further to £400 next year. Car tax for the least polluting vehicles was cut. However, green groups criticised the move as doing too little to halt the growth in sales of gas guzzling 4x4s, arguing instead for a top rate of car tax of £2,000 a year.

* AIR TRAVEL Mr Brown doubled air passenger duty in his final Budget. But the increase only took duty to £10 for a short haul economy flight, £40 for a long-haul economy seat and £80 for a long-haul seat in business class. Opposition MPs and green groups criticised the move as doing too little to rein in aviation and said the Government should curb airport expansion.

* HOUSING The Chancellor has made a major shift towards green energy, promising to waive stamp duty on new homes that are rated carbon neutral by 2012. But campaigners want more action to cut emissions from millions of existing homes.

* GREEN TAXATION Mr Brown won praise for his climate-change levy on pollution. But, despite a number of environmental measures in recent budgets, critics have warned that the proportion of green taxation has fallen under Labour.

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