Housing minister threatens councils on housing numbers – NOT developers!

The Express headline is:

‘Make their EYES water!’ Housing minister WARNING to councils who FAIL to meet targets

and the article goes on to blame councils for low housing numbers rather than developers who are hoarding hundreds of thousands of planning permissions, trickling out completions to keep house prices artificially high.

Message to Minister: stop shooting own foot, stop shooting councils, start squeezing developers till THEIR pips squeak!

Oh, and that bit about “developers starting on site” within two years. Legally, all they have to do is put in minimal foundations then they can leave the site unbuilt for as long as they want.

“Kit Malthouse MP was speaking to Nick Ferrari on national radio this morning to explain how the Tories are intending to “up the ante” for both developers and council planning teams so as to roll out new housing.

Mr Malthouse cited the introduction of a new scheme, the ‘Housing Delivery Test’, as one way in which the government’s building objectives might be more effectively met.

He said councils “have to hit a certain percentage of the forecast housing in their plan, and if they don’t we essentially take it out of their hands.

“If they drop below 85 percent of delivery they have to use an action plan, but if they drop below 25 percent delivery the government takes it out of their hands and they lose the ability to control a certain amount of housing in their area.”

“We want them to issue two year planning permissions, not three or five years, and if the developer doesn’t start on site within the two years that they’re able to say ‘your site’s out now’.

“You only have to do it once or twice for the development community to realise that we’re serious about this.”

The Minister explained that the Tories would give developers “big tools” to compel them to develop.

He concluded: “We’re putting big pressure on local authorities, big pressure on developers to come together.

“I do feel sometimes a bit like a marriage guidance councillor between the two because they do all shout at each other and point across the table at events that I’m at.”

Ministers say they will build 300,000 new homes a year, considerably up on the current build rate and more than in any year since the 1960s.

But a survey for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) found that only 12 percent of members expressed any confidence in that number of new homes being delivered.”

“Developers hog land for record 130,000 homes, analysis reveals”

“Developers are sitting on land for more than 130,000 homes in England that have never been built – the worst gap on record, according to new analysis.

The record gap between planning permissions granted and new homes being built has led to calls for tough new penalties to be enforced against developers that sit on land rather than build.

… The analysis of housing ministry (MCHLG) figures showed that in 2016-17, planning permission for 313,700 new homes was given, but only 183,570 homes built, meaning a notional annual gap of more than 130,000 homes, the biggest divergence since records began in 2006.

The percentage of homes built versus permission granted was just 58%, a rate that has been roughly steady since 2012.

… Landowners sell at a price that factors in a significant increase in value after obtaining planning consent, meaning a hectare of agricultural land worth £20,000 can sell for closer to £2m if it is zoned for housing. Developers regularly deny using land to speculate, arguing more profit can usually be made from building.

Labour is considering a policy to give the Land Trust powers to buy sites at closer to the lower price, by changing the 1961 Land Compensation Act so the state could compulsorily purchase land at a price that excluded the potential for future planning consent. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/oct/25/developers-hog-land-for-record-130000-homes-analysis-reveals

“Landowners to be forced to sacrifice profits for more affordable houses, under plans expected to be unveiled in budget”

Owl says: Oh, the poor, poor darlings! We must set up a charity or a crowdfunding page for them. We could make the aim of the charity “To unite Tory developer donors to pressurise government to create other ways of making obscene profits”.

“Councils would be able to strip landowners of large portions of profits from the sale of their land, under proposals expected to be unveiled in the Budget, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.

An official review commissioned by Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, is to endorse controversial calls for the state to “capture” more of the increase in value of sites when they are granted planning permission.

Sir Oliver Letwin, the former minister carrying out the review, is expected to recommend that local authorities should be able to seize greater amounts of landowners’ profits in order to fund the construction of local infrastructure such as roads and affordable homes. …”

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/10/20/landowners-forced-sacrifice-profits-affordable-houses-plans/

“A land banking scandal is controlling the future of British housing”

“How often have you heard private developers and their allies say they can’t build more homes because planning rules have created a shortage of land?

Kate Andrews of the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) summed up this view in The Daily Telegraph, saying: “There is only one way to solve the housing crisis and bring down the extortionate cost of homes: liberalise the planning system and build more houses. A bold but pragmatic policy would be to release greenbelt land – just a small fraction of which would be enough to build the million homes needed to address supply.”

A million more homes? That’s a tantalising prospect. So is there any basis for her argument that the only way to solve this problem is to liberalise (or deregulate) planning?

A little digging into the latest financial reports of the top 10 housebuilders reveals a very different story. Between them, they have a staggering 632,785 building plots on their books, of which more than half have planning permission. At the same time, these 10 companies reported building a total of just 79,704 homes – which means they have, on average, eight-years’ worth of plots in their land banks at the current rate of construction.

Among the top 10, there is a wide variation. At the upper end, Berkeley and Taylor Wimpey are hoarding 15 and 13 years’ worth of land respectively. At the lower end, McCarthy & Stone and Bellway have land banks equivalent to four years’ current output. The difference is mainly in what are known as the ‘strategic’ land banks – reserves that have not yet gained planning permission. All ten have ample land with consent, ranging from three to five years’ worth of output.

The top 10 builders accounted for about half of the 159,510 homes completed by the private sector in 2017.

It is often the case that the stories an industry feeds to the media are at odds with the trading information individual companies give shareholders via regulated stock market announcements. A classic example of this is car insurance where the industry body complained of an “epidemic of fraud” while the major providers told the market that claims volumes were falling.

In the case of housing, the market reports of the top 10 builders are brimming with confidence about future trading. You might expect Bellway, for example, to be feeling the pinch from a supposedly burdensome planning system because of its smaller-than-average land bank. But its trading update in August said that it had detailed planning permission on all its 2019 building plots and had increased land acquisition by 12 per cent to an annual level 30 per cent higher than its output. “The land market remains favourable and continues to provide attractive opportunities,” the company said.

The top 10 builders accounted for about half of the 159,510 homes completed by the private sector in 2017. So, what about the other players? Information is patchy because many are private companies, but random checks on those that are publicly listed suggest that smaller housebuilders also hold enough land to keep them going for years.

And then there are the companies that combine building homes with developing sites to sell on to other builders. The latest trading update from Inland Homes, for example, said that in the first six months of this year it has built 357 units and sold 837 plots to other housebuilders but still has 6,808 in its land bank – nearly six times as many as it built on or sold.

The pattern is clear: across the private housebuilding sector big land banks are the norm. If the top 10 companies – equating to half the market – are hoarding 600,000-plus plots, it is safe to assume that well over a million plots are in the land banks of the sector as a whole. Far from needing greenbelt land, the builders already have enough plots to deliver a step-change.

But will they? The IEA believes ‘markets’ solve economic and social problems, but the last 30 years have shown that is certainly not the case with housebuilding. When Margaret Thatcher slashed funding for council housing in the 1980s, the idea was that the private sector would fill the gap. But it didn’t happen: while the number of homes built by councils slumped from 110,170 in 1978 to 1,740 in 1996, private sector output stayed at much the same level as it was under Labour in the 1970s. With housing association output also virtually unchanged, total housebuilding has halved from more than 300,000 annually under Jim Callaghan to an average of 154,000 since 2010.

This situation suits housebuilders nicely. Constrained supply has helped push up the average price of a new house by 38 per cent since 2010, against an average of 30 per cent for all houses. And booming prices have in turn generated record-breaking profits and dividends. Taylor Wimpey, for example, cleared a £52,947 profit on each of the 6,497 houses it sold (at an average price of £295,000) in the first six months of 2018 and was able to promise shareholders that it would pay out £600m in dividends in 2019, a 20 per cent increase on 2018.

The government has responded to growing anger about land banks by setting up a review under Tory MP Oliver Letwin to “explain” why the “build-out rate” on land with planning permission is so slow. Letwin’s interim report has already admitted that housebuilders complete homes at a pace “designed to protect their profits”. His final report is due in time for the Autumn Budget, but don’t expect anything radical: he has made clear that his recommendations won’t “impair” the housebuilders.

Labour, meanwhile, has published a wide-ranging green paper promising “the biggest council housebuilding programme for over 30 years” delivering more than 100,000 “genuinely affordable” homes annually. To achieve this, Labour would use existing public land, such as sites owned by the NHS and the Ministry of Defence, and set up a Sovereign Land Trust to work with local authorities in England to help them acquire land at lower prices. Taking inspiration from the 1945 Labour government, it would also legislate to create another generation of new towns and garden cities.

Labour’s policy would, in effect, draw a line under the Thatcher era by restoring to the public sector the proactive role it played in providing housing prior to the 1980s. In doing so, it would limit the scope for the big housebuilders to hoover up nearly all the available sites and hoard them in order to drive up prices and profits. As for planning, far from being the cause of the housing crisis, it would be a means of solving it.

Steve Howell is a journalist and author of Game Changer, the story of Labour’s 2017 election campaign.”

https://www.bigissue.com/latest/finance/a-land-banking-scandal-is-controlling-the-future-of-british-housing/

“Landowners Pocket £13bn Profit In One Year Just For Getting Planning Permission”

Is there an election in the air? Tories talking about removing the “stigma” of social housing! You know, the housing they don’t build because, as George Osborne said – why would you when Labour supporters live in them!

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/tories-refused-to-build-social-housing-because-it-would-create-labour-voters-nick-clegg-says-a7223796.html

“Landowners pocketed a staggering £13bn in profit last year simply for securing planning permission while a housing crisis continues to grip the nation.

Research by the Centre for Progressive Policy and the National Housing Federation has unmasked how land-holders are raising massive sums simply for being a proprietor.

Agricultural land now becomes 275 times more expensive once it receives planning permission, even before a single home is built. This is a huge uplift from just two years ago when planning permission increased the value of farmland by around 100 times.

It means proprietors are effectively sitting on a goldmine once planners green-light development on a site they own.

The CPP and NHF report found landowners’ combined profits were more than the global profits of Amazon, McDonald’s and Coca Cola combined and has increased by £4bn over the course of two years to reach £13bn.

Theresa May is due to announce that £2bn of Government funds will be directed towards housing associations to give them long-term certainty they need to build homes.

But the NHF and CPP say a radical overhaul is needed so some land sales profits can be captured and ploughed into the public purse for new affordable housing and infrastructure, such as roads.

David Orr, chief executive of the NHS, said: “This research shows the astronomical sums that landowners have been able to pocket, before they even build a single new home. At the same time, the numbers of people in desperate need of social housing is sky rocketing – we have to build 90,000 new homes for social rent every year to meet this need.

“In the face of a disastrous housing crisis, it is clear that the the broken housing market is simply not delivering. What’s more, the way we buy and sell land is the key cause. Now, we need a fundamental rethink to tackle this fundamental problem.”

It comes as house prices and demand for social homes soar, with housing associations trying to build council housing for poorer families increasingly outbid on land by private developers.

May, who will address the National Housing Federation Summit in London on Wednesday, said the £2bn will be separate to the £9bn of public funding put toward the existing affordable homes programme until 2022.

She will also focus on ending what she calls the “stigma” attached to social housing, claiming some view tenants are “not second-rate citizens”.

The PM will say: “Some residents feel marginalised and overlooked, and are ashamed to share the fact that their home belongs to a housing association or local authority.

“On the outside, many people in society – including too many politicians – continue to look down on social housing and, by extension, the people who call it their home.”

Gavin Smart, deputy chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, said recognition of the social housing sector from the PM was welcome, and added: “But, as the Prime Minister recognises in her speech, it’s crucial that government investment helps housing associations to build the right kind of homes at the right prices.

“In practice this means building more homes at the lowest social rents – which is often the only truly affordable option for people on lower incomes.”

Labour also hit out at the Government plans.

John Healey, Shadow Housing Secretary, said: “Theresa May’s promises fall far short of what’s needed.

“The reality is spending on new affordable homes has been slashed so the number of new social rented homes built last year fell to the lowest level since records began.”

The English housing survey 2016/17 reported that 3.9 million households, approximately nine million people, lived in the social rented sector – which was 17% of households in the country.

The survey added 10% rented from housing associations and 7% from local authorities.

By contrast, 20% of households were private rented and 63% owner-occupied.”

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/landowners-pocket-ps13bn-profit-in-one-year-just-for-getting-planning-permission_uk_5ba12638e4b046313fbfe3ee

“Ireland sets up land agency as anger grows at housing shortage”

“… Despite being left with a surplus of houses after a 2008 property crash cut values in half, Ireland has been falling far short of the 35,000 new builds analysts say are needed annually just to keep up with demand from an economy and population growing faster than any other in the European Union.

Modelled on similar bodies in Germany and the Netherlands, the Land Development Agency (LDA) will be tasked with opening up land owned by local authorities, state departments, semi state bodies or in some cases the private sector to build 150,000 new homes over the next 20 years.

“We are acknowledging the reality that some of the sites that are causing this issue are in the ownership of public bodies,” Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe told a news conference.

“The adoption of a more pro-active land management role by the state is critical to solving the current housing crisis and creating downward pressure on land prices.”

Land for 3,000 units has already been secured from state bodies by the LDA, the government said, including, for example, by moving the country’s central mental health facility out of a Dublin suburb more suited to the construction of houses.

“Ireland has a poor history of managing its land in a sustainable way. This has resulted in inefficient use, sprawl and volatile price cycles,” Dermot O’Leary, chief economist at Goodbody Stockbrokers wrote in a note.

“While the impact from such an agency will not be felt immediately, it will be a welcome addition to the housing policy toolkit to aid in preventing some of the mistakes of the past.”

https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-ireland-housing/ireland-sets-up-land-agency-as-anger-grows-at-housing-shortage-idUKKCN1LT2GM

“Land now 51% of UK’s net worth – a huge transfer of wealth to landowners, say campaigners”

“A dramatic rise in land values pushed Britain’s wealth to a fresh high of more than £10tn last year, highlighting the huge gains made by developers in property hotspots across the UK.

From London and the home counties to Cambridge and popular parts of Devon and Cornwall, land values have become the single largest element of wealth, dwarfing household wealth locked up in property and financial savings.

Official figures showed that the UK’s net worth rose by £492bn between 2016 and 2017 to £10.2tn, with the lion’s share of the increase accounted for by a £450bn jump in the value of land.

The rise continues a trend since 2012 that has pushed the average assets held by each Briton to £155,000, up £6,000 from 2016.

The Office for National Statistics said consistent increases in the value of land meant it accounted for 51% of the UK’s net worth in 2016, higher than any other G7 country that produces similar statistics.

In France, which has a land mass twice the size of the UK, land values account for 41% of wealth while in Germany they account for only 26%.

This week several landowners have outlined plans for developments, including the Duke of Westminster’s Grosvenor Group, which said it was taking a growing interest in residential property outside central London.

It said it would build thousands of homes on greenfield sites around Oxford and Cambridge, which are to benefit from Treasury plans to connect the two university towns with a cross-country rail link.

Analysts said much of the increase in land values was in response to Britain’s rising population, which has put pressure on the government to back house builders seeking to develop green field sites and farmland in south-east England and other development hotspots around the country.

The price of farmland can increase by 100 times when developers succeed in persuading ministers to re-designate it for housing. Areas of London that were previously derelict, especially in the east of the capital, have seen huge rises in values as regeneration efforts and improved transport links have fed into property prices.

Commercial property has also enjoyed an upswing in value since Britain’s recovery following the 2008 banking crash, more than offsetting recent declines in much of the retail sector.

The ONS figures go beyond a study last year by Lloyds bank that showed that Britain’s net worth had climbed above £10tn for the first time, but did not single out the value of land.

The steady increase in land values is expected to trigger further calls for a land value tax or new rules allowing local authorities to reap the rise in values by allowing them buy land earmarked for development.

A growing number of thinktanks and politicians support imposing a tax that would take a slice of rising land values.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has urged the Treasury to develop a scheme, while the Green party co-leader, Caroline Lucas, has tabled a private member’s bill proposing a land value tax. Labour said in its 2017 election manifesto that it would consider a similar tax.

Mark Wadsworth, the head of the Campaign for Land Value Taxation, said: “The minority with a vested interest in high land values will no doubt celebrate higher values, saying that is shows the importance of land to the UK economy.

“In truth, land values are not a net addition to national wealth, they merely represent the benefits that accrue to landowners because of government spending on public services funded out of general taxation; land values are actually just a measure of ongoing transfers of wealth from taxpayers to landowners and a zero-sum game.”

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/aug/29/uks-wealth-rises-as-land-values-soar-by-450bn-in-a-year