Answering the housing land questions

14 January 2019

Answering the housing land questions

A symposium investigating key questions around the housing land market was held by the Department of Real Estate and Planning at Henley Business School on 10th January. The aim was to gain perspectives, and exchange knowledge, from the variety of stakeholders with interests in land markets; the event was well attended with attendees from industry, government policy, third sector, professional bodies, land brokers, land promoters and academia.

Although proposals for new housing development can generate hostile local responses, increasing the supply of housing continues to be a top priority for politicians, planners and, not least, the public. It is recognised that a significant increase in land supply is required if there is to be a significant increase in housing supply. To date, much of the focus of this debate has been on the capacity of, and constraints in, the construction and house building sectors, as well as the operation of the planning system. However, the ownership and control of potential housing land, and the operation and transparency of land markets remain comparatively poorly understood, with limited transparency on pricing, location, ownership, intermediaries, control, characteristics and constraints.

Whilst the focus of the symposium was mainly on the English land market, a small number of experts from overseas were invited in order to learn from their knowledge and experience of housing land markets and policy.

Discussion included trends over time in the availability of public versus private land coming forward for development, reasons for unimplemented residential planning permissions, location driven demand for houses (including affordable housing) and the capacity of the market to build them. There were also insights on the time required for scheme completions, responsibility for infrastructure costs, and how these are impacted by the size of the scheme.

There was an interesting session on data availability in the sector which is necessary for informed site-specific decision making. The array of data required has historically been poor, although discussions highlighted this is now changing with a number of government and industry initiatives seeking to improve data availability from disparate sources. Gaps in data availability were discussed alongside the requirements for transparent access to data which is up to date, detailed, comprehensive and robust.