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A select committee has warned that the government has failed to meet its target for releasing land for new homes by  “a wide margin”.

Under its Public Land for Housing Programme, the government aims to “increase housing supply by releasing surplus public sector land for at least 160,000 homes” in England between 2015 and 2020.

The Public Accounts Committee however argued in their latest report that by the end of the programme, the government will have failed to sell the land needed for 91,000 of the homes promised.

This is equivalent to 57% of the overall target.

Meg Hillier MP, the chair of the committee, said: “The nation’s housing crisis has been prolonged by the government’s failure to develop a strategy for public land disposal. We are frustrated that this unique opportunity has been wasted.

“The UK needs more houses. As a major land holder, the government is in a unique position to release land for new homes; and yet the objectives of its land disposal programmes are chaotic and confused.

“We are baffled that the programmes were not designed with a view to how many homes were needed of what type, and where – nor how the proceeds will be used.

“Land disposal targets were set without a rigorous evidence base of what could actually be delivered. It is no real surprise, then, that the government will now fail to meet its target to sell enough land by 2020 for 160,000 homes.

“But with a gap of 91,000 fewer potential homes than anticipated, we are extremely concerned that the nation’s housing shortage will only get worse.

“Building affordable homes should be a key part of the objectives of the government’s land disposal strategy. However, we are concerned at the Department’s disregard for how the release of public land could be used to deliver affordable homes, particularly social homes for rent.

“We call on the government to set out a decisive course of action for how it will execute its land disposal strategy so that it translates into actual homes for the people that need them most.”

The select committee said this target was ‘clearly unrealistic’ from the outset and lacked a sufficient and rigorous evidence base when it was originally set.

The Cabinet office is expected to achieve its proceeds target of delivering “£5bn of receipts between 2015 and 2020 through the release of surplus public sector land and property across the UK.

This is despite almost all departments being on course to miss their individual targets.

However, this is because of one large unplanned sale that contributed almost £1.5bn of the £5bn target.

The committee said it is unacceptable for the outcomes of these crucial programmes to be reliant upon luck instead of judgement.

It said that despite just 40,500 homes having been built since 2011, the loose definition from the ministry of housing, communities and local government (MHCLG) of what constitutes a new home has artificially inflated the number of new homes that have been created.

A spokesperson from MHCLG added: “We have an urgent mission to build more homes for the next generation so they can realise the dream of home ownership.

“Last year saw us deliver 222,000 new homes, more than in all but one of the last 31 years.

“Government departments have identified enough surplus public sector land for 160,000 new homes and our development accelerator Homes England is providing expert assistance to get these built more quickly.”

By Michael Lloyd

Source: Mortgage Introducer

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