Labour considers building up to 100,000 affordable homes a year
Proposals to build up to 100,000 affordable homes a year have been set out by shadow housing minister John Healey.
Under the plans, contained in a report produced for a think-tank, the new homes could pay for themselves within a generation through savings to housing benefit.
The report said the housing benefit bill has grown quicker under the Conservatives than under Labour administrations.
On current trends, the housing benefit bill is set to hit £45 billion in today's prices by 2045, more than the UK currently spends on defence, the report said.
The report said the programme of affordable public homes to buy and rent could pay for itself in 26 years purely through lower housing benefit payments, returning a "profit" to the Exchequer of £5.8 billion over 30 years.
In the report for the Smith Institute, Mr Healey said: "It's simply indefensible for government ministers to deny responsibility for ensuring people are decently housed and for helping the next generation get on.
"An affordable home isn't a 'nice to have', it's the bedrock for the lives and futures of individuals and families throughout the country."
In the document, which is not official Labour policy but is intended as a discussion paper, Mr Healey said: "The long-run benefits of more public homes outweigh the upfront costs of building them."
He added: "After five years of failure with the Tories, it is time to think bigger and be bolder about how we could fix Britain's chronic housing problems.
"I hope this report helps kick off the wide debate I believe is needed in the country about our housing costs crisis.
"In the first year of a new five-year parliament it is time for a serious conversation about the problems millions of people face with little hope of a decent, affordable home to buy or rent.
"The truth is the cost of housing crisis is big enough for every part of the public and private sector to play a much bigger part.
"This report shows that public investment in building low rent homes could reduce the housing benefits bill, and produce a profit in the long run for the taxpayer.
"It demonstrates how we could be building 100,000 new council and housing association homes each year by 2020, and how the investment cost would be covered in full by savings to housing benefit.
"Building more new public homes is good social policy, and sound fiscal policy too. A better deal for tenants and for taxpayers."