MHCLG ‘wastes once-in-a-generation opportunity’ to solve housing crisis

24 Jul 19

Westminster will miss a self-imposed target of selling enough land to build 160,000 homes by the end of 2019-20 by 57%, MPs have claimed. 

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is expected to fall short of its goal by releasing enough land for 69,000 of the 160,000 homes, the Public Accounts Committee has said in a scathing report out today. 

In 2016-17 the value of the government’s estate stood at £179bn and MHCLG has been trying to reduce this via its Public Land for Housing Programme.

But the 2019-20 target for selling off land was “clearly unrealistic from the outset” and “lacked a sufficient and rigorous evidence base when it was originally set”, the PAC stated. 

The report claimed the government “has wasted a once-in-a-generation opportunity to alleviate the nation’s housing crisis,” as it failed to take “strategic view” of the types of houses needed.

Meg Hillier, PAC chair, said: “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.”

“It’s no real surprise,” Hillier continued “that the government will now fail to meet its target to sell enough land by 2020 for 160,000 homes. But with a gap of 91,000 fewer potential homes than anticipated, we are extremely concerned that the nation’s housing shortage will only get worse.”

The MPs noted the PLHP programme was likely to reach its goal of achieving £5bn in receipts of land sales for the Cabinet Office. 

But this was only due to an “unexpected” sale of Network Rail’s railway arches in February 2019, which raised £1.46bn – nearly 30% of the overall target.

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

“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.”

Did you enjoy this article?