Delivering more homes: radical action to unblock the system

There is enough Green Belt land within the confines of Greater London – 32,500 hectares – to build 1.6 million houses at average densities. If only a tenth of this land were used for new housing that would represent 160,000 new homes – a significant response to the urgent housing crisis in the capital. The government should introduce legislation to enable the setting up of Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) as an appropriate delivery mechanism for new integrated and sustainable communities with a mix of housing types and tenures, for example, homes for sale, private rental, housing association accommodation and more specialised types such as sheltered accommodation for the elderly.

As recommended in a House of Lords select committee report into the housing market, a senior Cabinet Minister should be given overall responsibility for identifying and coordinating the release of public land for housing. The Government Property Unit in the Cabinet Office needs to up its game and accelerate progress with its Government Estate Strategy, notably in respect of the One Public Estate programme which appears to have made lamentable progress as far as land sales are concerned.

Given the slow progress so far made on public land disposals, consideration should be given to allowing a private sector body permission to apply to acquire public sector land under the Compensation Code and serve a Disposal Order to achieve such a transfer. This might prove particularly relevant where this relates to land where a local authority has already granted planning permission. There is a strong case to use land promotion partners where additional expertise and funding is judged necessary to unlock sites for development. Promoters can supply ‘shovel-ready’ sites into the land market, speeding up the delivery of new homes. Small housebuilders have a particularly important role to play in constructing homes on small sites owned by the public sector. Recently announced loan guarantees by the government may prove pivotal in delivering new homes. Small sites should be exempt from CIL and Section 106 payments except in relation to issues of safety. Small housebuilders should be enabled to use the Disposal Order system to bring forward sites. These entrepreneurs must be enabled to contribute fully to resolving the housing crisis

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