The NAO’s report noted that the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) expects departments to release enough land for around 65,000 homes by 2020. However, by December 2018 land with a capacity for just 38,166 homes had been released.
While the government had targeted releasing enough public sector land for the building of 160,000 homes by 2020, the NAO noted it does not now expect to reach this level until 2025.
What’s more, of the land released between 2011 and 2015, which the government suggested could lead to 100,000 new homes, just 40,500 homes have been “brought to market”.
What’s holding development back?
The NAO report noted that MHCLG had identified a host of challenges to delivering its targets.
- Public bodies may still be using the land
- Sales of some large, complex sites have been delayed due to planning issues
- Sites may require decontamination
Damned by data
The NAO was damning about the department’s record on the data it has collected covering this land release programme, noting it has made “limited improvement” since its first programme between 2011 and 2015.
The NAO’s report stated: “Until April 2019, the MHCLG had not published an annual report on the land for new homes programme since February 2017 despite committing to do so, and has not published any information on new homes built under the entire programme, which the [Committee of Public Accounts] asked for.”
While the government will not be hitting its targets for how much land is being released, it is still on course to achieve its target of £5bn of proceeds from the land, with £1.8bn raised from just two transactions already.
So far £2.48bn has been raised, with 12 per cent of the 1,500 sites sold so far going for £1 or less. While most of these sales have involved small properties, five covered sales of sites bigger than 10 hectares.