Government must speed up land disposal to meet housing target, say MPs

2 Nov 16

The government has been told it will need to speed up the disposal of public land if the Whitehall target to free up capacity for at least 160,000 new homes by 2020 is to be met.

The Public Accounts Committee said that there was still a long way to go to ensure this target was met, despite individual Whitehall departments being set target contributions. These include freeing up land with capacity for 55,000 homes by the Ministry of Defence, a 38,000 target for the Department for Transport, 36,000 from the Department for Communities and Local Government and 26,000 from the Department of Health.

However, the report highlighted that as of March, DCLG had disposed of 12% of its target, the Ministry of Defence 1.5% and the Department for Transport only 0.2%.

The government has been told it will need to speed up the disposal of public land if the Whitehall target to free up capacity for at least 160,000 new homes by 2020 is to be met.

Source: Public Accounts Committee

Today’s Progress with the disposal of public land for new homes report highlighted that DCLG had not been able to demonstrate the effectiveness of a previous government pledge to release enough public land to build as many as 100,000 homes.

Although DCLG had made progress on managing the disposal of public land, including a commitment to monitor homes built as a result of land sales, committee chair Meg Hillier said there was still much to be done.
“Sluggish sales have hindered progress towards the 2020 target while questions continue to hang over the potential of many sights earmarked for sale and whether homes will be in the places people want to live,” she stated.
Previous schemes were “wishful thinking dressed up as public policy”, Hillier said, and it was vital the government learned from previous mistakes.

“Ultimately the public will judge the success of this programme on the basis of the homes built and the government must make clear who taxpayers should hold to account for this.”

There is particular uncertainty over the potential for housing of many sights earmarked for sale in future, according to MPs, as many of these sites are still being used to deliver public services. It is therefore unclear when they will actually be available, and there is no contingency in the programme.

MPs urged DCLG to firm up the detail of its monitoring and reporting processes and to make all details of the programme public so that roles, responsibilities and accountabilities are clear.

Responding to the report, a DCLG spokesman said: "Previous governments hoarded swathes of public land, blocking vital housing sites from being built and costing taxpayers a fortune in upkeep costs.

“We are also taking direct action, by using surplus public land and £2bn of investment to accelerate delivery of thousands of new homes during this Parliament.”

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