Housing crisis exacerbated by government failure to sell land so new homes can be built, MPs warn

Ministers failing to sell land needed for more than half of homes promised under its land disposal targets amid ‘severe shortage’ in social housing, says Public Accounts Committee (PAC)

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Wednesday 24 July 2019 06:30 BST
‘The objectives of the government’s land disposal programmes are chaotic and confused’
‘The objectives of the government’s land disposal programmes are chaotic and confused’ (Getty/iStock)

The UK’s housing crisis is being exacerbated by the government’s failure to sell off unused land so that new homes can be built, MPs have warned.

Ministers will have failed to sell the land needed for more than half of the homes promised under its land disposal targets, missing its aim to sell enough land by 2020 for 160,000 homes by the considerable margin of 91,000 homes, according to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The committee accused the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government of wasting a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity and failing to use its position as a major land owner to alleviate the nation’s housing crisis.

They said ministers set up “clearly unrealistic” disposal targets without a rigorous evidence base of what could actually be delivered, saying it was “no real surprise” that the government would now fail to meet them.

A report published by the committee on Wednesday also said it was unacceptable that the department paid “so little attention” to how the release of public land could be used to deliver affordable homes, including social homes for rent, which are in “severe shortage”.

Chair of the PAC, Meg Hilier, said the nation’s housing crisis was being “prolonged” by the government’s “failure” to develop a strategy for public land disposal, adding: “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.”

She called on the government to set out a decisive course of action for how it would execute its land disposal strategy so that it translates into actual homes for the people that need them most.

The report comes after research revealed England was on course for its worst decade for housebuilding since the Second World War, with the number of completions between 2010 and 2019 around 130,000 per year – well down on the 147,000 of the 2000s or the 150,000 of the 1990s.

The figure, published in January by the Centre for Policy Studies, was just half of the level in the 1960s and 1970s, continuing a 50-year pattern that has seen successive governments failing to build enough new homes.

The government has been approached for comment.

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