Government failing to release promised land for new homes, say MPs

Posted on Thursday, July 25, 2019

The Government stands to miss its targets for releasing land for the development of new homes by a “wide margin”, MPs have warned in a critical report.

Under the Public Land for Housing Programme, ministers had pledged to release enough surplus public sector land to build at least 160,000 new homes in England between 2015 and 2020.

However, the Public Accounts Committee says that according to the government’s estimates, it will fail to sell the land needed to build 91,000 of these homes, which means that 57 per cent of its target cannot be supported.

The cross-party committee of MPs’ report says: “We are incredibly disappointed that the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government will miss its target for releasing land for new homes by such a wide margin.”

The report argues that the government’s target was “clearly unrealistic from the outset” and “lacked a sufficient and rigorous evidence base when it was originally set”.

On top of this, the Committee describes the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s definition of what constitutes a new home as “unacceptably loose” and says it has “artificially inflated the number of new homes that have been created”.

Even though the government stands to miss the target for the release of land, it is on track to deliver on its goal of raising £5bn from land sales by 2020.

However, the Committee points out that this is due to a large £1.5bn transaction and that almost all individual departments have missed their targets, meaning that its success on this measure has been down to “luck instead of judgement”.

Public Accounts Committee chair Meg Hillier says: “The nation’s housing crisis has been prolonged by the government’s failure to develop a strategy for public land disposal.

“We are frustrated that this unique opportunity has been wasted.

“The UK needs more houses. As a major land holder, the government is in a unique position to release land for new homes; and yet the objectives of its land disposal programmes are chaotic and confused.

“We are baffled that the programmes were not designed with a view to how many homes were needed of what type, and where – nor how the proceeds will be used.

Hillier adds: “We are extremely concerned that the nation’s housing shortage will only get worse.”

The Committee is calling on the government to provide a “decisive course of action” to deliver on its homes targets.

An MHCLG spokesman says: “We have an urgent mission to build more homes for the next generation so they can realise the dream of home ownership.

“Last year saw us deliver 222,000 new homes, more than in all but one of the last 31 years.

“Government departments have identified enough surplus public sector land for 160,000 new homes and our development accelerator Homes England is providing expert assistance to get these built more quickly.”

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