Development bodies urged to sell land for housing

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The Independent Online
ENGLISH urban development corporations, criticised by Labour for concentrating on commercial development, were urged by the Government yesterday to sell land for low-cost housing.

The apparent shift of emphasis follows discussions between John Redwood, minister of state at the Department of the Environment, with the Black Country corporation, one of 10 created in England since the 1980s. He said: 'I have asked each of the Urban Development Corporations to release for sale sensibly priced land.'

The move comes in the wake of attacks by Labour MPs, who have claimed that while UDCs have soaked up pounds 2bn of taxpayers' money in the last five years, little benefit has gone to local people in the form of jobs and homes.

Corporations enjoy planning powers over designated areas, removing much land from local authority control to encourage private investment. But all have been hit by difficulties in finding commercial tenants.

Mr Redwood's statement yesterday also reflects the new realism about home ownership.

'Now that houses are home shelter rather than as asset in an upwardly mobile market, buyers are seeking good value - more house for their money. Despite the current housing market people are still keen to become homeowners, and are willing to invest at affordable prices.'

Mr Redwood said many house builders had spurned the opportunity of building in inner cities, preferring to pay 'extravagant' prices for greenfield sites.

Citing a West Midlands development which in 1990 included four-bedroomed houses for pounds 55,000, Mr Redwood said: 'When the industry has seized the opportunity to build quality homes at affordable proices they have been quickly snapped up.'