Disposal of public land for new homes – more action needed

Thursday 14 July 2016

A report released on 12 July 2016 by the National Audit Office (NAO) shows that the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) have made progress in setting up their new programme to release enough public sector land for 160,000 homes by 2020, but so far only land with capacity for an estimated 8,580 homes has been disposed of.

The NAO report found that the estimated 8,580 houses are located across 77 sites, which represents 5% of the programme with £72 million raised from sales. The figures represent land disposed of by the end of March 2016 and the Government has also disposed of land for a further 4,853 homes over the same period.

However, the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) has not yet obtained sufficient evidence that the sites will be developed for housing. We understand that the HCA is working to obtain the evidence and if these sites are validated, progress to date would represent 8% of the programme.

The 2015 Spending Review set out Government departments’ contributions to the land disposals programme. In December 2014 the Housing Minister committed to release enough land for 150,000 new homes by 2020. Land disposals were then discussed with senior official and Ministers from all major land-owning departments and the commitment was revised to 160,000 in November 2015.

This means that over the next four years land disposals will need to be over 36,000 potential homes per year if the 160,000 commitment is to be reached by 2020. Readers should note that the programme, and progress against it, relates to the disposal of land with capacity for housing, not actual homes built. As outlined by the report the development of these sites could take many years to complete.

NAEA has raised the issue of unused public sector land in consultation responses and will continue to do so. We believe that this land should be released for residential developments in towns and cities across the UK. This is particularly relevant in London where demand for housing is extremely high. The Greater London Authority, Transport for London and the National Health Service could all release land for development.

It’s clear the more progress is needed to ensure that DCLG reaches its target for the five year programme. The report explains that much of the land identified for sale is still in operational use and decisions on whether it is surplus will be taken later in this Parliament. However, the fact that the first full ten months of the programme has not quite delivered 10% of the total commitment means significant delivery risks remain and further action is needed.

The report can be read in full here