The chief executive of a leading housing association this week told MPs that the government should set up land assembly agencies to tackle the affordable housing crisis.
People for Places chief executive David Cowans said the agencies, based on Ireland's Community Land Trust model, would acquire sites and assemble land for development.

Cowans believes this form of "land banking" would unlock large developments with large quantities of affordable housing. Working with registered social landlords at the beginning of the development process, the agency would tender out developments to strict masterplans with high levels of affordable housing.

Cowans put forward his proposals to the parliamentary urban affairs committee inquiry into affordable housing. The government has committed itself to ensuring that "all social housing meets set standards of decency by 2010".

Cowans added that the affordable housing debate tended to ignore the quality of the units constructed. He said: "There is so much debate about numbers, we will lose quality and build £45,000 boxes because they can be built quickly."

Carl Powell, Westminster council's director of planning, used the meeting to hit out at London mayor Ken Livingstone's plans for 50% affordable housing tariffs on all inner-London developments. He said the plans would result in fewer affordable housing units being built as developers and boroughs would inevitably negotiate downwards from such a high tariff.