The UK government is a major land holder. In 2016–17, the total value of central government-owned land and property was estimated at £179 billion. The government manages these assets through the Government Estate Strategy. It has been reducing the size of its estate for several years owing to a policy to sell assets where it considers they no longer serve a public purpose. The government has two main disposal targets: a proceeds target whereby the government plans to “deliver £5 billion of receipts between 2015 and 2020 through the release of surplus public sector land and property across the UK”; and a land for new homes target known as the Public Land for Housing Programme, whereby the government aims to “increase housing supply by releasing surplus public sector land for at least 160,000 homes” in England between 2015 and 2020. This programme follows an earlier target to release enough land for 100,000 new homes between 2011 and 2015.
The Cabinet Office is responsible for the government’s estate strategy and for the proceeds target, while the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (the Department) is responsible for leading the new homes target. Individual departments are responsible for pursuing their own targets that contribute to the overall totals, while also ensuring that individual sales represent value for money. The Treasury is responsible for setting departmental budgets which are net of the proceeds expected from land disposals.
This is the third time the Committee has reported on the Department’s Public Land for Housing Programme. In 2015, we concluded that the Department could not demonstrate the success of the 2011–2015 programme in addressing the housing shortage or achieving value for money. In 2016, we recognised that improvements had been implemented in the 2015–2020 programme but warned that the government would fail to deliver land for 160,000 homes by 2020 unless it significantly accelerated the rate at which land for new homes is made available.
Published: 24 July 2019