The government has been accused by MPs of worsening the UK housing crisis by failing to sell enough land to build new homes by more than half.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) says the UK will fail to meet its target to sell enough land for 160,000 homes by 2020. This means it will fall short by 91,000 homes, equivalent to 57% of the overall target.
The PAC says the government has wasted a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to alleviate the nation’s housing crisis” by failing to develop a strategy for public land disposal.
In a report published today, the committee says the target was “clearly unrealistic from the outset” and that members “remain frustrated” that the release of public land was not leading to enough homes being built.
It says that it is “unacceptable” that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government pays little attention to how the release of public land could be used to deliver affordable homes including social homes for rent.
“This failure is largely because of the unrealistic targets the centre of government imposed on departments without enough thought about the issues that would need to be overcome to make sales happen,” the report says.
PAC chair and Labour MP Meg Hillier says the government’s failure to develop a strategy for public land disposal had prolonged the housing crisis.
She says: “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.”
Ms Hillier says building affordable homes should be a key part of the objectives of the government’s land disposal strategy.
However, the committee is 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”.
She adds: “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.”
A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government says: “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.”