A ‘People’s Land Bank’ may the answer to the housing crisis

A national body directing home building on vacant public land could be the bold solution we need to our failing housing system.

The desperate housing situation in the UK requires an urgent solution — a national body helping local authorities to build new affordable houses could be part of the answer.

The chancellor should establish a ‘People’s Land Bank’ with an initial £10bn investment to kickstart housebuilding, the chancellor was urged today.

Up to 320,000 new affordable homes could be built within years on existing vacant public land, the think tank said — and further land would be obtained through compulsory purchase of brownfield sites.

The body would take control of a national stock of publicly owned land earmarked exclusively for the building of new affordable homes, the plan proposed by the New Economics Foundation says.

Although an initial £10bn investment would be required, the paper says, “in the long term” the scheme will pay for itself.

With house building his “number one priority” in the budget this week, Philip Hammond should listen up to the proposals.

“As the housing crisis sits at the heart of our economic malaise, the single biggest thing the Chancellor could do in such a Budget would be to set up a People’s Land Bank”, the think tank’s briefing paper argues, continuing:

“In the early 20th century, David Lloyd George proposed a People’s Budget ‘to remove the national degradation of slums and widespread poverty and destitution in a land glittering with wealth’… we need a People’s Budget for the 21st century.”

This new public body would be in sharp contrast to the Tory government’s current policy which is to sell-off surplus public land to the highest bidder — with property developers generally snapping it up for private development.

The People’s Land Bank should be aided by further policies, the think tank argued, including:

  1. Bolster the finances of local councils: government imposed limits on what local authorities can borrow must be lifted and councils should be able to keep 100 per cent of receipts from houses sold under Right to Buy
  2. Give councils compulsory purchase powers: allow local authorities to buy up brownfield land at low rates.
  3. Borrow £10bn to kickstart the scheme: the government should take advantage of low interest rates and borrow an initial sum; although in the long-term, the Land Bank should be able to fund itself.

Andrew Pendleton, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the New Economics Foundation, said: “The People’s Land Bank is a policy big and ambitious enough to begin the work of confronting the economic malaise we face.”

“The Budget of 2017 is no less significant than Lloyd George’s of 1909. And the measures it should pursue should be no less momentous. In seeking to tackle economic malaise and post-Brexit threat, the Chancellor would do well to draw on his predecessor’s ambition.”

With a relatively small initial investment and self-financing in the long-term, the ‘People’s Land Bank’ idea is limited only by political will, not money. The chancellor, setting out on his “bold budget” tomorrow, would do well to consider the proposals.

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One Response to “A ‘People’s Land Bank’ may the answer to the housing crisis”

  1. patrick newman

    What about people who cannot afford affordable houses. Why no mention of social housing or council housing to be completely explicit. Why did the Labour 2015 manifesto not mention social housing. Affordable housing is about 80% of market rates – who is homeless or in bed and breakfast can afford that. Few on the much slimmed down waiting lists can afford affordable housing. Councils need to be freed from compulsory RTB and borrowing restrictions and they can then deliver 50,000 dwellings a year

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