The UK is in the grip of a housing crisis, with a severe shortage in some areas of affordable homes specifically social homes for rent. Despite these pressing issues, the government has failed to use its position as a major land owner to develop and execute an effective strategy to meet land disposal targets. We are incredibly disappointed that the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government will miss its target for releasing land for new homes by such a wide margin. By the end of the programme, the Department estimates it will have failed to sell the land needed for 91,000 of the homes promised under the target, equivalent to 57% of the overall target. This target was clearly unrealistic from the outset and, as we were concerned to discover during the inquiry, lacked a sufficient and rigorous evidence base when it was originally set. The Cabinet Office is expected to achieve its proceeds target, despite almost all departments being on course to miss their individual targets. However, this is because of one big unplanned sale that contributed almost £1.5 billion of the £5 billion target. It is unacceptable for the outcomes of these crucial programmes to be reliant upon luck instead of judgement.
Yet again, the government did not help itself by having muddled objectives at the outset. Government is optimistic that changes it has made will lead to improvements in the delivery of land disposals, but we are very concerned to see slow progress in areas we highlighted in previous reports, particularly the collection of data on affordable homes. We remain frustrated that the release of public land is not translating into enough actual homes for those that need them. Despite just 40,500 homes having been built since 2011, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s unacceptably loose definition of what constitutes a new home has artificially inflated the number of new homes that have been created.
Published: 24 July 2019