Government’s promise to build 100,000 homes on public land is by no means the first

Housebuilders have reacted warmly to the government’s announcement it plans to sell £10bn of housing land in order to allow 100,000 homes to be built. However, for those that have been involved in regeneration for more than six months, the announcement may have a slightly familiar ring to it, and may prompt a slightly more cynical reaction. Pledges to sell public land have come before and rarely delivered what they have promised in terms of homes.

A brief but instructive history of announcements on selling public land for building housing on is as follows:

  • November 2003. Then regeneration quango English Partnerships launches the London Wide Initiative – designed to build 4,000 homes on surplus public sites in the capital
  • July 2007. Then prime minister Gordon Brown first announced a review of 550 public sector sites to provide land for new homes
  • November 2007. Brown raises the figure to 900 public sites, to deliver 200,000 homes, many for first time buyers and key workers. 
  • April 2008. The communities department announced the release of surplus brownfield public sector sites by English Partnerships which could deliver 30,000 new homes. DCLG gave no indication whether these sites were the ones which Caroline Flint also referred to in the same month. Flint said that the Government had examined 900 unused public sector sites and concluded that 170 were suitable for housing.  
  • July 2009. Public Land Initiative launched by Homes and Communities Agency to build 500 homes on public land
  • November 2009. Then communities department minister Minister Ian Austin said the Homes and Communities Agency estimated that 143 of the 692 sites on the register of surplus public sector land might be suitable for housing development. They had the potential to deliver over 18,000 homes. Of the 692 sites 573 sites had been on the register for over six months and 540 for longer than 12 months.
  • April 2010. The London Wide Initiative, launched in 2003, was terminated having delivered just 401 out of a final target of 2,500 homes
  • June 2011. Grant Shapps announces HCA is accelerating enough land for 11,000 homes in the next four years. In total the government plans to sell £10bn of land, enough for 100,000 homes.

With thanks to the House Builders Association for part of the data.