The Conservatives are promising a “new generation” of social housing will be built in England if they win the general election.
They say they would make it easier for councils to purchase derelict land for new rented housing projects.
Their plans involve offering “fixed term” council houses to be sold off after 10 to 15 years, with any proceeds reinvested in social housing.
Labour said the plans were “political spin, with no substance”.
“There’s no commitment on the number of new affordable homes or on new funding,” said the party’s housing spokesman, John Healey.
Labour has promised to build a minimum of one million new homes over the next five years, with at least half to be council or housing association properties.
The Tories said they expected “thousands” of homes to be built each year with “hundreds of millions” of pounds invested over the course of the next parliament, without giving precise figures.
Under their proposals, the government would “strike deals” with councils and housing associations, offering direct funding to enable them to build more homes and make it easier for them to acquire land for development.
This would include changing the compulsory purchase rules so councils could buy derelict brownfield land at below market value.
In return, some of the homes would have to have a fixed-term social rent – typically 10 or 15 years – after which they would be sold, with the tenant being given the first option to buy.
The Conservatives said this would allow increases in land and property values over that period to be reinvested in social housing.
Prime Minister Theresa May said the housing market was “broken” and vowed to fix it.
Mrs May said: “Giving tenants a new right to buy these homes when they go on the market will help thousands of people get on the first rung of the housing ladder, and fixed terms will make sure money is reinvested so we have a constant supply of new homes for social rent.”
BBC political correspondent Iain Watson says the policy is aimed at voters who might not be traditionally Conservative supporters, including some of the million people on housing waiting lists.
Anne Baxendale, acting director of communications for housing charity Shelter, welcomed the proposals.
She tweeted: “Reports of pledge for new council housing v exciting & testament to how far we’ve come that this is now x-party consensus.”
In February, the government set out a string of measures aimed at increasing the number of affordable homes in its housing white paper, including giving councils the power to pressurise developments to start building on land they own.
Labour has put housing at the forefront of its election campaign, promising 100,000 new social homes a year with investment from a new national infrastructure fund.
‘Seven years of failure’
Mr Healey said: “Under Theresa May and the Tories we’ve seen seven years of failure on housing, with the level of new affordable housebuilding now at a 24-year low.”
Mrs May could not “sidestep her share of the blame for the Tory housing crisis”, he added.
In other general election news, Jeremy Corbyn’s party said it would impose a tax on financial transactions to raise billions of pounds for public services.
The Lib Dems, meanwhile, are offering a cash incentive to engineering and technology graduates who sign up for the armed forces.
Party leader Tim Farron said the £10,000 “golden handshake” would help address a “critical skills shortfall” in the services.
It would be paid to recruits who committed to serve for five years.