In a previous article for Property Investor Today, which you can read here, I highlighted the importance of utilising brownfield sites to help boost the UK’s property market; a topic that many property investors and industry experts agree on as unused land which holds great potential to accommodate quality homes that we so desperately need.
This year’s BBC Housing Briefing estimated the possible scale of the UK’s current housing shortage, which will grow as the UK population increases in size. This gap – the difference between the current housing stock and the number needed for everyone to have a decent home to live in – exceeds one million homes! The Briefing revealed that the UK built 1.2 million fewer homes than needed and suggested it will take at least 15 years at current building rates to close the gap.
As such, it was a particularly pleasant event for many property professionals to witness last month’s announcement by Cabinet Office Minister Lord Agnew at the Chartered Institute of Housing’s annual conference. According to Agnew, the government is boosting its Land Release Fund (LRF) and the One Public Estate (OPE) programme with an additional £30 million. Money that is to help release surplus land for housing and support local economies bounce back from the pandemic.
For anyone unfamiliar with these initiatives, the Land Release Fund is a cross-government initiative between the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and One Public Estate (OPE) which is delivered in partnership by the Local Government Association and the Cabinet Office.
He said: “By taking a fresh look at how we use buildings and release surplus public property and land, the One Public Estate programme has helped to create thousands of new homes and jobs and breathed new life into communities. As we look forward, across Government and local authorities, we will continue this work to make sure we deliver the vital public services people need while providing value for money for taxpayers.”
The announcement builds on previous news that the government is investing £360 million in Mayoral Combined Authority areas through its £400 million Brownfield Fund. This will deliver 26,000 new homes while protecting greenfield sites.
In the meantime, the LRF targets small sites with a particular interest in supporting SME builders. As part of the scheme, it offers councils the opportunity to bid for £20 million for remediation works and infrastructure to bring their surplus sites forward for housing. Funding will be allocated in the current financial year and is now available for bids, which is expected to be very popular.
Further to the £20million provided via the LRF, the OPE programme will provide the additional £10 million that will be used to support the earliest stages of development. New and existing partnerships will be able to bid for practical support to deliver property programmes in collaboration with central government and other public sector partners, which will not only deliver homes and investment opportunities but also jobs.
Following on from Lord Agnew’s speech, Housing Minister Rt Hon Christopher Pincher MP added: “Delivering much-needed new homes across the country is central to the mission of this government. This new funding will help councils right across England to turn unloved, unused land into new homes and communities where they are needed most. It is an important part of how we are working with local government and the housing industry at every level to support our recovery from the impact of the pandemic.”
Previously, in 2018, the Land Release Fund awarded £45m capital funding to over 70 council-led projects to combat barriers which would otherwise make land unusable for development. The fund was oversubscribed with more than £100 million received in funding requests for 143 projects.
These 70+ projects that did make the cut are due to release land for more than 6,000 additional homes by March 2021. The funding is primarily being used for small-scale land remediation and infrastructure works such as asbestos removal and bat alleviation but also schemes that will significantly improve quality of life. Some of the projects include:
Broadland District Council in Norfolk: awarded funding to deliver improvements such as site highways works. 22 homes at Rosebery Road, Great Plumstead have now been completed.
The Griffin regeneration area in Blackburn: awarded funding to carry out new highways access and land remediation work to accelerate the release of brownfield land for 140 new homes.
For the full list of projects that have been awarded in 2018, please click here. With the urgent requirement for more housing across the UK, local authorities, property investors and house hunters will be eagerly anticipating which projects will be awarded funding this time around.
*Jason Tema is the director at Clearview Developments, a property developer with in-house construction arm that specialises in securing land, obtaining planning and the realisation of high-end residential developments.