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3% more open land ‘would solve housing shortage’, says minister

The UK’s housing shortage can be addressed with as little as 3 per cent more open land being opened up to development, the planning minister claimed last week.

Nick Boles told BBC Newsnight, in his first interview since taking office last week, that if the amount of developed land available in the UK was upped to 12 per cent, it would effectively solve the ongoing housing shortage.

He says: “All we need to do is build on another 2 per cent to 3 per cent of land and we’ll have solved a housing problem.

“Around 88 per cent would still be rural countryside and we would have completely solved our housing needs for the next 20 years.”

The number of new homes built in England increased by 7 per cent from 106,720 in 2010 to 114,160 in 2011, according to figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government; the second lowest annual total since 1946.

Home Building Federation head of communications Steve Turner says: “The minister’s figures look accurate but there is no simple solution to house building. Mortgage availability is a factor but land is definitely another and we have been not been delivering on land through the planning system for a number of decades.

Figures from MoneySupermarket show the availability of mortgage products has started to improve since the Government’s Funding for Lending scheme was introduced in August.

The total number of mortgages available in May, was 2,365. The figure had risen to 2,373 by the time the FLS was introduced. There are currently 2,781 mortgages now available, representing a 17 per cent increase since August.

Countrywide have previously issued its own challenges to the Government in terms of house building.

Chief executive Grenville Turner urged the Government to tie capital generated through Stamp Duty tax with the amount spent on affordable housing.

He says: “Property taxes and investment in UK Housing plc need to be aligned. The current tax take from Stamp Duty is almost four times as much as the annual spend by the Homes and Communities Agency on building affordable housing.”

See this week’s Media Spotlight on page 31

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