THE announcement by the Government to sell off surplus land to house builders was particularly timely as it came at the same time as a report revealed housing projects were in decline.
The statistics unveiled by construction industry analyst Glenigan made particularly gloomy reading.
Its report said that private housing project starts were down 32% for the three months to May compared to the same period on 2010.
Year-on-year for the reported period, social housing schemes fell by 28%.
However, the Government’s plan to sell off £10bn-worth of surplus land to house builders could help rectify that situation.
The amount of previously developed land owned by the public sector is substantial – it has been described as being around the size of Gateshead.
The Government has tasked all its departments with significant land banks to publish plans to release the thousands of acres they own by the autumn. Councils are also to be encouraged to follow this lead and make their unused land available for development.
All of this information will be collated in a new map, due to be launched later this year, showing land and buildings owned by public agencies in each area.
This is good news on several levels. Not only could it result in about 100,000 homes being built over the next four years, but also help address the housing shortage and give a much needed lift to the fortunes of the construction industry. The map will also allow developers, builders, housing associations and other agencies in the construction sector, to see at a glance what potential sites are available in the locations in which they operate.
In tandem with this, the Homes and Communities Agency has published its land disposal strategy. This encompasses, what is being termed as, “accelerated sites” that will be marketed during the next couple of years, allowing about 3,000 new homes to be started by 2015.
The HCA strategy also incorporates an initiative to help house builders’ cashflow through a “Build Now, Pay Later” deal, where payment for the land is only sought once work has started on the new homes.
While not solving the housing shortage in its entirety, these initiatives are a step in the right direction. They have the potential to play a critical role in helping breathe new life into the construction sector and triggering a building renaissance.
It is crucial that all those connected with the construction industry, including developers, builders and housing associations, start planning ahead. They must make sure that they are ready and able to make the most of the opportunities .
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