William Eichler 02 May 2019

Whitehall to miss target to release enough land for 160,000 homes

The Government is unlikely to reach its 2020 target to release sufficient public sector land to build 160,000 homes, auditors warn.

A National Audit Office estimates that by 2020 enough land for only 65,000 homes is likely to have been released by Government departments, which is only 41% of the 160,000 target.

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government reported to the NAO that by December 2018, land with a capacity for 38,166 homes had been released.

At this rate, the MHCLG estimates that it will only reach the 160,000 target after 2025.

The MHCLG identified a number of factors that prevent the Government reaching its 160,000 target, including the fact that public bodies might still be using land to provide services and that sales of large, complex sites are sometimes delayed due to planning issues.

The National Audit Office’s report also found that the Government expects to achieve its target to raise £5bn in proceeds by selling land and property by March 2020.

It found that two transactions were responsible for more than £1.8bn and that between April 2015 and March 2018, the programme had generated £2.48bn in proceeds.

The NAO’s analysis shows that of the 1,500 sites sold between April 2015 and March 2018, 176 (12%) were sold for £1 or less.

The main reasons given for the low prices of these sales related to the costs the buyers would incur, the fact that they were narrow strips of land which had no other use, and the fact that the land had contractual conditions attached.

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