MINISTERS in Parliament are keen to address a chronic housing shortage which saw the number of new properties built under Labour shrink to the lowest level since the 1920s.
A shortage of new homes, high prices and the reluctance of banks to lend, particularly to first-time buyers, have led to stagnation in the housing market.
Ministers have spent months compiling a database of all publicly-owned land which is surplus to immediate requirements, which is expected to be published on Wednesday (June 8th
At the same time the Prime Minister will launch the process of selling plots to developers.
The first tranches are understood to include a site in Hemel Hempsted, Herts, owned by the Crown Estate; a former hospital site in Basingstoke, Hants; a housing estate scheduled for demolition in Tower Hamlets, east London; a brownfield site part-owned by Network Rail in Northampton, and a former colliery in Rushcliffe, Notts reports the Daily Telegraph.
Builders will be offered “buy now, pay later” deals which will see them only have to hand over money once properties are built and sold, sources at the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) confirmed.
Ministers believe the deals will help building firms struggling with cash flow problems.
Grant Shapps, the Housing Minister, said: “The government sits on a lot of land which is often no longer being used for its original purpose.
“Rather than see it go to waste it’s obviously sensible to get it back into use. I think there’s the potential for tens of thousands of homes to be build on government property which is currently lying idle.
“Through schemes like Build Now, Pay Later we’ll invite developers in to build homes to benefit everybody.”
A survey last week by the Halifax bank, first highlighted in The Sunday Telegraph, pointed to a new “Generation Rent” – would-be home owners in their 20s and 30s who fear they will never be able to get their feet on the property ladder.
The new homes are expected to be a mixture of owner-occupied properties and social housing – but ministers are keen to end the “target” culture and rigid planning controls which they claim hindered developers under Labour.
Councils are to be offered a New Homes Bonus for properties constructed in their areas which will see ministers “match” the amounts raised in council tax for every new home built, for a period of six years.
If, for example, a council approves the construction of 100 ‘Band D’ dwellings – on which the average council tax payable in England last year was
£1,439 – it will receive an extra £863,400 to spend locally.
The money could be used to cut council tax bills, boost services such as rubbish collection or build new amenities such as playgrounds.
The planning system is also being reformed through a range of measures, including a new presumption in favour of sustainable development.
A CLG spokesman said developments should be permitted wherever possible except where this would compromise key sustainability principles.
Ministers have also acted to end “garden grabbing” – the trend for developers to buy large properties and build on their gardens, which was facilitated by changes to planning law brought in under John Prescott, the former deputy prime minister.
Nearly a quarter of all new homes were crammed onto existing residential plots between 1998 and 2010.
Labour say the New Homes Bonus is unfair and weighted in favour of wealthier areas in the south of England, which are mainly controlled by Tory councils.
The party’s alternative housing policy would see an extra 25,000 “affordable” homes built using money raised from a repeat of last year’s bank bonus tax, brought in while the party was in government, which overall raised £3.5 billion.