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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Councils hold the key to affordable housing crisis, says land agent

An agency which specialises in land is calling on local councils to play a greater part in the push to create more affordable homes.

Aston Mead's comments follow a recent analysis of London Land Commission data, which indicated that 93% of brownfield sites in London are owned by local authorities.

The firm's director, Adam Hesse, says the only way cheaper homes will be built is if the land they are built on costs less.

“We can’t expect private landowners to reduce their profits by selling land at subsidised prices. So as the largest landowners in the country, it’s the councils which hold the key to solving the affordable housing crisis,” he says. 

“They need to identify the brownfield sites they are currently sitting on, and make them available.”

Under the Housing and Planning Bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament, all local authorities will be required to keep up-to-date registers of publicly-owned brownfield land that could be suitable for development. 

Hesse suggests that councils could start to act like residential property developers, perhaps in joint ventures with existing construction companies.

“One idea could be for councils to build 25% of their homes on their own land for housing benefit tenants, whilst retaining ownership of these properties,” he explains.

“This would prevent payments being made to ‘Rachman’ style landlords, whilst giving the council more control over those who are in genuine need of accommodation. The local authorities would also retain the value of their estates as long term investors.”

He adds that as councils are spending increasing amounts of money housing older people, some of the new properties should be built as sheltered accommodation. 

Hesse says that his suggestions needn't just apply to the capital and that they could be carried out in locations across the UK. 

“Local authorities are the only organisations that can deliver cheap land for affordable housing in the sort of quantities this country so desperately needs,” he says.

  • Algarve  Investor

    Local councils definitely have a part to play, but a lot of developers are hoarding land as well. I like the noises being made about the regeneration of brownfield sites, but this seems to be a very slow process and I have worries about just how affordable the homes built on these will be. And, of course, brownfield sites are often snapped up for retail or leisure purposes, so there is no guarantee that these sites will be set aside for housing, despite the government's promises to the contrary.

    The real scandal in all this is the number of empty homes that we have in this country. Abandoned, derelict, boarded up properties that could become perfectly inhabitable with a bit of investment and clever thinking. Then there is the Buy to Leave brigade - surely this is something that can be stopped? If you have no plans to ever live in a home, how is it right that you are simply allowed to sit on investment as it price soars and your bank balance bulges. At the very least let it out or turn it into a holiday rental home for tourists. It's not allowed in other European countries or across the rest of the world - but the Buy to Leave brigade get away with murder in the UK. They should be getting far more criticism than the buy-to-letters, in my view.

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