Monday, 26 November 2012

They own land! Give them, er, more land!

From the FT:

The Treasury is poised to seize control of the sale of public land owned by Whitehall departments after losing patience with the slow pace of the government’s land disposal programme, the Financial Times has learnt.

George Osborne, the chancellor, is set to announce in next month’s Autumn Statement that all departments will be forced to cede control of their properties and land to a central body, the Homes and Communities Agency...

And what's the reason given for the urgency..?

Ministers have long argued that selling publicly-owned sites could lead to the building of vast numbers of homes. Grant Shapps, the previous housing minister, said in May that the government was on course to "smash" its ambitions for releasing previously used land.

Ministers had identified enough surplus public land, including empty offices and unused storage, to build 102,000 homes, Mr Shapps said. That surpassed the prime minister’s aim to release enough land for 100,000 homes by 2015, he added.

Ho hum, putting aside whether we actually have a housing shortage in an absolute sense, rather than a woefully inefficient use of existing land and buildings (both are equally desirable from the NIMBYs' and land speculators' point of view), what earthly reason to they have for assuming that simply giving home builders more land will mean that they build more houses..?

From The Telegraph 28 August 2011:

Figures compiled from the UK's leading house builders have revealed that they have enough land to build 617,724 homes. Less than half of this land has been granted any kind of planning permission.

from The Telegraph 24 August 2012:

Local authorities have given the go-ahead for more than 480,000 building plots in recent years, yet work is only progressing on 136,700 of them.


adamcollyer said...

It's a great way of funding the deficit though. Land speculators who happen to also own building companies borrow billions from banks. They give the money to the government to piss up a wall. In return the government gives them lots of land. The value of the land goes up over time thus making profits that the builders can book without all the hassle of actually building anything. What's not to like?!

Mark Wadsworth said...

AC, it won't fund the deficit though, plots for 100,000 homes, even at £50,000 each is only £5 billion, the Tories are running a deficit of that much every two weeks. Apart from that, agreed.

Bayard said...

It's quite simple. Developers give money to the party in power and in return, the government seels them land on the cheap, except they can't present it quite like that. The MoD decided one of its houses down here in West Wales was surplus to requirements, so they auctioned it off. Where was the auction? Handily in Bootle.