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Land trusts could help deliver ‘next generation’ of social housing, says report

 

The report, published by City University and Friends Provident Foundation says the funds would manage all of the public land suitable for development with the specific goal of enabling the building of new social housing.

The trusts would be a ‘powerful new instrument to help address the current housing crisis,’ according to the report. They argue the policy would be a key way of increasing the supply of land at a ‘reasonable cost’ to enable public investment in social housing.

The authors – Steve Schifferes, Stewart Lansley and Duncan McCann – say the land trust could be created at a minimal cost since land is already in public ownership. The land trusts would be established by the state and operate totally independently of it.

An independent board, which would include local people, would manage the governance of the trust and ensure that it met its social goals. The day-to-day management of the trust would be done by property management professionals.

The authors propose an expansion of the role of the state to ensure the future increase in the supply of social housing. They also believe the state should be primarily responsible for ensuring there is enough land available for future housing development, building on the huge reservoir of land already owned by the public estate.

The trusts would also have the power to borrow in order to acquire land, secured against its existing land portfolio, and could be given powers to acquire land banks that are being held by private developers who are not currently building housing on these plots, and could use the proceeds from leasing to the private sector to provide infrastructure or community services.

According to the report, the land trusts would have five key objectives:

  1. Retain public land in social ownership
  2. Acquire additional land at existing use value
  3. Build social housing on public land
  4. Lease land to the private sector for residential and commercial development, with strict conditions on tenure, infrastructure and affordability
  5. Ensure that land with planning permission held by builders or investors is developed in a reasonable time frame.

Co-author Duncan McCann, a Junior Research Fellow at City, said: ‘These are radical but feasible proposals that would transform the way we own and manage national wealth. At the local level, they would ensure that land for development remained in public ownership while dramatically boosting the supply of new housing.’

Read the report here.

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