Housing priority for Labour but land banking accusation upsets homebuilders

Housing was a major theme of this year’s Labour party conference, with Labour leader Ed Miliband unveiling a range of policies to tackle the housing crisis. He said that a Labour government would aim for 200,000 new homes to be built by 2020, double the current number.

However, to help achieve his ambitious plans, he also suggested that developers could be forced to give up ownership of sites where they have not built homes, stating that:

“We’ll say to private developers, you can’t just sit on land and refuse to build. We will give them a very clear message – either use the land or lose the land.”

He also used the party conference to announce that in order to build the homes the country needs:

“We’ve got to break the power of the big developers. They’re sitting on hundreds of thousands of places for homes with planning permissions and not building because they’re waiting for it to accumulate in value.”

The Home Builders Federation (HBF) immediately responded stating that housebuilders “completely” rejected the accusation that they hoarded land that could provide new homes. It pointed out that three independent studies in the past 10 years – the most recent by the Office of Fair Trading – had all proved that the industry did not landbank.

The HBF confirmed that:

“Further recent evidence supports this conclusion. In the HBF’s most recently survey of the larger homebuilders, only 4 per cent of plots with an implementable planning permission were on sites where production had not yet started.

“The country faces a housing crisis that will take a collective effort to solve. It is unhelpful when political rhetoric centres on myths when the real challenge is how we increase housing supply.

“If we are to meet the new ambitious targets all parties are agreed are required, politicians need to work with the housebuilding industry to address the constraints on housing supply.”

HBF added that it would continue to put across its evidence “in a balanced and objective” way to policymakers, “to get to grips with the issues that people actually care about”.