Affordable fall off as Public Land for Housing programme misses 2020 target

Only around 20,000 of over 130,000 new homes planned for programme sites expected to be affordable.

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Only around 20,000 of over 130,000 new homes planned for sites released under the Government’s Public Land for Housing programme are expected to be affordable.

The programme is a key element of the government’s housing ambitions with the aim of releasing enough public sector land for 160,000 homes by the end of March this year.

Latest MHCLG data shows the programme has missed its sell off target.

A dig down into the data shows that on the 1,370 sites, the planned housing capacity amounts to 178,188 homes.

Of these, 145 sites with capacity for 47,158 homes have been excluded from the figures as these sites include private sector land as part of the planning applications.

This is because it is not possible to determine how many of the planned affordable homes are to be built on the former public sector land parts of these developments.

So, the figures do not reflect performance across the programmes as a whole and report the likely minimum that are expected to be delivered.

This means that across the remaining 1,225 sites with a planned capacity for around 131,000 homes just 19,873 are expected to be affordable.

Planning documents for each site were reviewed in order to determine whether the developer addressed affordable housing in their proposal and whether it formed part of the legal agreement between the council and developer via a Section 106.

If affordable housing was included in the planning agreement, further investigation was carried out to determine the type of affordable housing being provided.

Where the application did not specify the type of affordable housing being provided, data was categorised as ‘Affordable Unknown’.

If the affordable housing provision was specified as a percentage, this was calculated from the total number of housing units provided by the application and rounded to the nearest whole number.

Should several types of affordable housing be covered by a single count or percentage in an application, this was split evenly between the types of housing and rounded to the nearest whole number.

Where a site was shown as part of a larger development and the remainder of the site is not included in the programme, the affordable housing figures included were for the whole development – not just the public sector land site that was sold but shown as being partly built on government land.

However, if all the land within the application boundary was included in the programme the affordable housing breakdown was split evenly between the sites.

If there were multiple government land sites within one application and all the land within the application boundary was included in the programme the affordable housing breakdown has been split evenly between the sites.

And there are also sites which do not have sufficient planning documents.

Overall, the new stats support the findings of a report last year which warned of a shortfall.

Under programme, the government planned to release land for 160,000 homes between 2015-2020.

But the stats show that as of June last year the programme had released land for around 48,000 homes – which have been built.

Under a second phase of the programme up to March last year, 5,500 homes had been delivered.

In May last year, a progress report on the programme noted that departments pitched a high probability of releasing land with capacity for some 69,000 homes by March this year – and that although departments had identified sufficient land for over 160,000 homes, it would be released to a longer timeframe.

On publication of the report, the then Housing Minister Kit Malthouse said government departments had agreed “immediate actions” to identify more land to bring into the programme and to accelerate disposals where possible.

The latest figures show 508 sites – with capacity for around 48,000 homes – have has been sold by all departments through the programme as of June last year.

Most of the sites were found through the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the Department of Health and Social Care, and MHCLG.

As of March last year, over 51,000 homes have been brought to market on sites released through both the 2011-15 and 2015-20 programmes – up from around 40,000 homes delivered at end March 2018.

In April 2017, MHCLG began to monitor the progress of sites sold through both the 2011-15 and 2015-20 Public Land for Housing programmes, in order to estimate the number of homes under construction and completed.

An experimental methodology has been developed by Ordnance Survey (OS) to monitor sites through the planning system to completion.

The figures reported are based on activity on 96% of sites sold through the 2011-15 and 2015-20 programmes covering 1,410 sites with forecast capacity for 149,662 homes released by departments up to the end of March 2019.

Of these, 40 sites have since been developed for commercial use, leaving 1,370 sites (with forecast capacity for 143,822 homes) being developed for housing.

OS is continuing to investigate the remaining 4% of sites to ensure figures are robust.

Key findings show that at the end of March 2019:

• Over 51,000 homes (51,897 homes) have been brought to market on former public sector land sites, up from c40,000 homes delivered at end March 2018
• Homes have been built on public sector land sites across England; 24% (12,244 homes) in London, 20% (10,372 homes) in the South East, 15% (7,627 homes) in the Midlands and 14% (7,447 homes) in the North
• Homes were completed or are underway on over 900 sites across England, up from 700 sites at end March 2018
• 37% of sites sold for housing (513) are fully completed

In April last year, Government was accused of reducing the scope for affordable housing by ‘lacking competence’ to manage land it owns.

A report from the Lords recommended stronger powers for councils to develop housing on publicly owned land and borrow to fund house building.

Evidence put to the Lords Intergenerational Fairness & Provision committee reinforced the potential for public land to boost affordable housing provision.

The report said it was time to “think more radically” about public land.

  • A written Commons question confirmed the MoD holds no information on the number of properties built on land sold for development – batting an answer off to “the new owner of the land and local planning authorities”.

Former Health and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt had asked how much and what proportion of the MoD’s built estate had been released to the public sector for development; what the reduction to the size of that estate has been as a result of the release; and how many properties have been built on land previously owned by MoD over a three-year period.

MoD minister James Heappey said that since 2015 the MoD’s Defence’s built estate has reduced in size by 1.3% and is currently 73,900 hectares.

Land with a Housing Unit Potential of up to 8,321 houses had been released since 2010, said Heappey.

“The Department holds no information on the number of properties built on land sold for development as this would be a matter for the new owner of the land and local planning authorities,” he said.

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