Members of parliament say that the government missed out on easing the housing crisis by failing to sell excess public land for social housing enough for 160,000 new affordable homes.

Based on the calculation of the Public Accounts Committee, the government is going to miss its 2020 public land sales target by a wide berth amounting only to 57% of the total goal resulting in 91,000 less homes intended for social housing.

Unique Opportunity
Committee chair Meg Hillier says that a “unique opportunity has been wasted” and that the government’s failure to come up with a resolute plan to sell off public lands has prolonged the housing crisis. She further states that “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.” The failure to meet the target, according to the committee, “...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.”

Also, in deciding to sell land, the government focused on the availability of surplus land and whether or not it could be sold rather than the kind of houses that were needed and where they were needed. The Ministry of Housing , communities and Local Government, the department responsible for housing, has no accounting for the number of houses built on the land being sold, but instead threw the responsibility to the local government. The committee says that “it is unacceptable that the department pays so little attention to how the release of public land could be used to deliver affordable homes including social homes for rent."

Local authorities are in charge of the specific requirements on the kind of housing that is to be built on the former public land, however, the committee says it needs the support of the central government.

Disagreement Stemming
The government is again being pegged to raise £5 billion from the sale of public land. Nearly 30% or £1.46 billion of the target has been raised from the sale Network Rail in February this year. Questions were also raised for the unexplained sale of 176 sites that were sold for £1 or less from April 2015 to March 2018

Other issues include disagreement stemming from trying to sell the land for the highest value possible and expecting developers to construct social housing on said land.

Investigation by Huffpost and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in March this year reports that 6% of the new homes built on the land sold by the local government were most likely used for social housing and some for luxury apartments.

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