In a recent speech Ed Miliband claimed that planning permission has been granted for 400,000 homes in England that have not been built.
This figure was used for his theme that homes were delayed by greedy capitalist property speculators engaging in "land banking."
However the Planning Minister Nick Boles has shown such claims to be misleading:
Mr Boles says:
The latest figures (provided by Glenigan, based on sites of 10 units or over) show that, as of 3 June 2013, there were 60,500 residential units that were classed as on hold or shelved. A further 189,900 units were estimated to be progressing toward a start. There were a further 10,500 units which were in the process of being sold or where information is unavailable. Information is not publicly available at smaller geographical scales.
It has been suggested in recent weeks that there are 400,000 homes that could have been built which have not been built because of land hoarding, with firms sitting on land waiting for it to accumulate in value and not building on it. For the record, this assertion is incorrect and misleading.
The notional 400,000 figure stems from a report commissioned by the Local Government Association undertaken by Glenigan using data sourced in December 2011. It notes that in 2011 there were 399,816 residential units with planning permission which were "unimplemented". However, the report clearly distinguishes between sites under construction and sites which were unstarted.
Of that 400,000 units figure, 191,000 was private housing already under construction. A further 83,000 units were unimplemented provisions for social housing (and therefore, in no sense private sector developers 'hoarding land'). The report also notes that the amount of unimplemented schemes has fallen by a third from 2008 to 2011, and the number of private, unstarted units has fallen from 206,000 in March 2008 to 127,000 in December 2011.
Indeed, the Office of Fair Trading examined the suggestion of land banking in 2008. They reported:
“We have not found any evidence to support the view that, at the national level, homebuilders are hoarding a large amount of land with implementable planning permission on which they have not started construction” (para 5.89)
“Having a stock of land helps a homebuilder cope with fluctuations in the housing market and also helps to reduce its exposure to risk resulting from the planning system. We have not found any evidence that homebuilders have the ability to anti-competitively hoard land or own a large amount of land with planning permission on which they have not started to build. Apart from the homebuilding firms, the available information suggests that the largest ‘landbank’ may be that held by the public sector. If the Government and devolved Administrations wish to ease this constraint going forward then one potential way of doing this would be to make more public sector land, which is suitable for development, more readily available to homebuilders” (OFT, Homebuilding in the UK: A market study, September 2008, para 1.8).
This Government has introduced a wide ranging package to support stalled house building. These include making £570 million available through the Get Britain Building investment fund aiming to unlock new homes on stalled sites, and a £474 million investment fund in local infrastructure for stalled locally-supported, large scale housing sites and commercial development. Our investments to date are helping to bring forward new homes, boosting the construction industry and stimulating economic growth.
In addition, the Growth and Infrastructure Act enables developers with any Section 106 agreement, irrespective of the date of signature, to apply for a review of the affordable housing component to ensure development is not being made unviable by unrealistic requirements. Such unrealistic Section 106 agreements result in no development, no regeneration and no community benefits: a sensible review can result in more housing and more affordable housing.
We also have a comprehensive programme to sell surplus and redundant public sector land and property, freeing up taxpayers' money and providing land for new homes."
The Government could and should release far more land to be sold for housing. State land banking remains vast. But, of course, Mr Miliband – with his fixation of blaming capitalism for everything – shows no concern to press the Government to go further.