William Eichler 18 February 2020

Selling public land has created ‘minuscule’ amount of affordable housing, think tank says

The Government has sold enough public land for developers to build 131,000 homes, but only 2.6% of those homes will be for social rent, a think tank has revealed.

The progressive think tank the New Economics Foundation (NEF) has warned that the selling off of public land has created a ‘minuscule’ amount of affordable housing.

For 10 years, the Government has been selling off public land, such as hospitals, prisons, ministry of defence firing ranges, with the aim of building more houses.

The current five-year programme has the dual purpose of releasing enough land for 160,000 homes by 2020, and raising £5bn in capital receipts.

However, the NEF accuses the Government of having ‘scant interest’ in the types of homes being built.

They argue that since the Government changed the definition of ‘affordable’ to include homes rented at 80% market rates, social rent is the only housing ‘genuinely affordable’ to people on low income.

Around 15% of homes built on public land will be classified as ‘affordable housing’.

However, according to the NEF, the Government does not have data on what kind of affordable housing the majority of this is.

As a percentage of total affordable housing built on sold-off public land, social rented housing will still only make up 17% of all affordable homes built, the think tank estimates.

Responding to the NEF’s findings, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, said: ‘Since 2010 we have delivered over 464,000 new affordable homes, including 141,000 social homes – with the number of people on the social housing waiting list decreasing by 37% since 2012.

‘We have invested £9bn in our Affordable Homes Programme and have lifted the borrowing cap so councils can build more social homes. Last year we delivered more homes than any year in the last 30 years and will deliver a million more in this parliament.’

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