Just 6% of homes on sold-off public land set for affordable rent

Research reveals over half of plans for sold-off public land have no social-rented housing.


New research shows only 6% of the houses built on public land sold off by the government will be available for genuinely affordable social rent.

The research – released by the New Economics Foundation – also reveals that less than one-quarter of the homes built on sold-off public land will fall under any category of ‘affordable’, which includes often unaffordable shared ownership and homes let at 80% market levels.

Over half of the sites have no plans for any social rented housing at all.

“The government has said that their public land sale is a major part of their solution to the housing crisis,” said Hanna Wheatley, researcher at the New Economics Foundation.

“But the type of homes built is just as important as the amount.

“In most places, this means building social housing should be the priority as the only housing that is genuinely affordable to people on low incomes.”

Wheatley continued: “The government doesn’t have a strategy for the release of public land and is failing on its own terms.

“It’s clear that public land could be used for public benefit to alleviate the housing crisis, but selling to the highest bidder is ruling this out from the beginning.

“With every site sold, the availability of land suitable for housing diminishes, as more land is lost to luxury housing developments,” she said.

The LGA references the research in support of its case for councils retaining 100% of Right to Buy receipts – which was snubbed by the Spending Review.

“With more than one million people on housing waiting lists, homes for affordable and social rent are desperately needed across the country.

“If we are to tackle the housing crisis, we need to kick-start a genuine renaissance in council house building, accompanied with the right infrastructure, “ said LGA housing spokesman Cllr David Renard.

“The last time the country built more than 300,000 homes a year was 1977/78, when councils built 44% of them.

Latest figures show councils were only able to directly build 2,000 homes last year – the highest level since 1992 – but need to be able to do so much more.

“Lifting the housing borrowing cap was a big step forward, but we now need the Government to go further in the Queen’s Speech by devolving Right to Buy so councils retain 100% of their receipts to reinvest in building new homes, and can set discounts locally,” he said.

The government has been selling off public land since 2011, with the stated objective of stimulating housing supply.

The current 2015-2020 programme has a target of releasing land in England for 160,000 new homes, generating £5bn for the government.

But by 2020, the government will only have sold enough land to meet 43% of its target for new homes.

New Economics Foundation analysis of the land sale from 2011-2018 found that:

  • Only 6% of the homes built on public land will be for genuinely affordable social rent
  • Less than one-quarter (23%) of homes built on public land will fall under any category of ‘affordable’
  • Over half (56%) of the sold-off sites have plans that include no socially rented housing
  • At current rates of land release, it will take almost 13 years to reach the government’s target of enough public land released for 160,000 homes

The National Housing Federation has estimated that to address the housing crisis, 42% of all new homes build in England should be affordable.

But in 2017, only 23% of new housing stock met this requirement.

Shelter recently reported that the UK needs 3.1 million more social-rented homes over the next 20 years.

Over one million households are currently on the waiting list for social housing.

In July, the government was accused of ‘squandering’ a once-in-a-generation chance to ease the housing crisis.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee saying it was unacceptable MHCLG pays so little attention to how the release of public land could deliver social housing.

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