Gordon Brown yesterday began his battle to reassert his political authority with a package of measures to boost the housing market, but his initiative was immediately mired in confusion about its aim and how it would be funded.

The plan to revive the housing market was greeted with almost universal condemnation yesterday amid warnings that it was unlikely to help home buyers.

The political objective is clear enough: the prime minister hopes that by taking steps to alleviate problems in the housing market and, next week, to address rising fuel prices, he can show he is on the side of “hard-working families'.

In addition to £1bn of measures to help people buy their first homes and rescue those facing repossession, Brown announced plans for a year-long stamp duty holiday on homes costing up to £175,000.

Although Brown and Alistair Darling, chancellor, agreed the moves would help first-time buyers and those in trouble with mortgage payments, there appeared to be less agreement on whether it would support the collapsing housing market. 'The chancellor has not said this will prop up the housing market,' said an aide to Mr Darling.

Financial Times, Daily Telegraph, The Independent