Public sector urged to take leading role in shaping the housing land market

THE public sector needs to take a leading role in the housing land market to create places people want to live at prices they can afford – according to a public body funded by the Scottish Government.

Says the Scottish Land Commission, in the executive summary of its findings being presented to Scottish Government ministers (here): “Scotland is not currently delivering enough homes to meet the needs of society, and the quality of the places we are creating through new housing development is not as high as it should be.”

And the radical 35-page document goes on to say: “Part of the reason for this lies in our approach to land, specifically how it is brought forward and made ready for development.

“Over the past 18 months, the Scottish Land Commission has undertaken a review to investigate the operation of the housing land market – to understand how it works and recommend how it could be reformed to better serve the people and communities of Scotland in a fair and climate-conscious way. This report brings together the findings from that review into a five-step programme for reform.”

The five recommendations are, as follows:

  • The creation of a new recyclable fund to support the creation of a network of ‘place pioneers’ – an ambitious programme of affordable housing delivery utilising repurposed publicly owned property assets in town centres and privately owned housing stock in remote rural communities.
  • Regeneration Partnership Zones (RPZs) – a new statutory mechanism to help speed up the redevelopment of land in fragmented or multiple ownership by enabling landowners and public authorities to share long-term uplifts in land values.
  • Introduce new mechanisms to enable local authorities to ensure that uplifts in land value arising from public investment in infrastructure and remediation are captured and invested in place-making.
  • The creation of a new land agency, empowered and resourced to ensure that a steady supply of development ready sites is brought forward at the right time and in the right places to meet Scotland’s housing needs.
  • A new ‘transparency obligation’ that would require options agreements and conditional contracts over land to be disclosed on a public register and for summary information on this to be published on a regular basis alongside a regular statistical bulletin covering land sales prices.

The ‘place pioneers’ recommendation notes self and custom- build and Cohousing, accompanied by the following reflection: “There are already successful alternative models in Scotland.

“In other countries these models account for a much larger share of housing, providing greater variety and choice.

“We are not proposing pilots or new models but scaling the growth of proven models to increase housing delivery and choice by providing a supply of land to develop on. The advantage of these models is that they are either not-for-profit or, in the case of SMEs, require a lower rate of return than plc housebuilders.

“They should therefore work better on sites with lower profit margins, provided that the public sector enables delivery by assembling sites for development.”

Read a SLC media release, here.

Picture credit: Place Design Scotland