A major backbench revolt by Labour MPs nearly succeeded in halting the progress of the Housing Bill to the Lords this week.

Twenty-eight Labour backbenchers voted in favour of a rebel amendment to the bill, one of the largest rebellions since prime minister Gordon Brown came to office. The amendment was still defeated by 263 votes to 210.

The bill is required to create the planned housing and regeneration superagency by combining the functions of the Housing Corporation, English Partnerships and aspects of central government.

The rebel Labour MPs were concerned about the transfer of council homes to privately owned housing associations. They also wanted the bill to give councils a greater role to build homes to meet the government’s target of 240,000 new homes each year.

Michael Meacher, a former environment minister, said: “The figure [of homes built each year] is likely to fall because of the sub-prime market disaster gradually deepening and the credit crunch. There is no way that the private sector in the current economic climate will be remotely able to fill the gap, nor is it very wise for it to try to.”