Specifically, how do we secure land for housing, offering both a fair price to the landowner, while ensuring there is enough money left to build quality homes and sustainable communities?
The HCLG Select Committee has launched an inquiry into land value capture, while the Labour Party announced plans for the state to compulsorily purchase land for new homes at values that exclude potential for future planning consent.
My worry is that that we risk putting all landowners into the same box – “avaricious” and even “responsible for our housing crisis”.
Many rural landowners work in a very different way to urban, institutional investors.
They care deeply about what is built on their land and want to help provide quality, affordable homes to help sustain life in rural areas. We need to wake up to this untapped potential.
For example, in November 2015, Hastoe held our first conference for rural landowners interested in releasing land for affordable housing at Newmarket.
We were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and interest from local landowners. So we now have a programme of regional landowners’ conferences – the latest of which was at Chelmsford City Racecourse in February.
Everytime, the message is the same.
So many rural landowners know there is a housing crisis and want to provide land for quality, affordable homes that will leave a positive legacy for their community.
Rural homes are 20% more expensive than in cities, while house prices/earnings gap in Rural England is even higher than the national average.
At Chelmsford, many landowners came forward, interested in partnering with Hastoe to deliver new rural homes.
This has quickly become one of our main methods for sourcing land for new housing projects. If you put the support in place, rural landowners flock to you with interest.
As 17% of the population live in Rural England, it’s a big step towards solving our housing crisis.
So we need to work with rural landowners, not against them, to deliver the homes we need. I am fearful of the excitement about CPO powers.
In rural communities, where there might only be one or two landowners, this will strike fear into hearts of the very people we need to be working with.
Rural landowners care about what is built on their land. If their only option is to work with a big developer and lose control of what is delivered, they will simply say ‘not now’.
Homes England must recognise that rural landowners are often entirely different to urban landowners. The government should encourage landowners to build on Rural Exception Sites – an excellent way of releasing land at fair values and building quality rural homes.
Instead of punitive taxes, the Treasury should consider tax tweaks to encourage releasing land for affordable housing.
For example, more than a third of CLA members would be more willing to sell land at a discount for affordable housing if the value of the land was exempt from Capital Gains Tax.
So let’s recognise the potential of rural landowners to make a very significant contribution to solving our rural housing crisis.
They are our partners – let’s work with them and build the homes Rural England needs.