Instead of selling off NHS land, the Government should create a People’s Land Bank, and use the land to build genuinely affordable homes
The Government’s sale of NHS land is failing to produce affordable homes and is exacerbating the affordability crisis across the UK, according to new research from the New Economics Foundation.
The research involved a comprehensive analysis of the 59 NHS sites that have been sold so far under the Government’s public land sale programme. It finds that, of the planned homes for sale, four out of five will be unaffordable to a nurse on an average salary. And where they could afford the mortgage repayments, a nurse would have to save for an average of 53 years to afford the deposit.
Only one in ten of the homes built on NHS land across the UK will be for genuinely affordable social rent. And the average expected sale price for the new homes, based on area estimates, is £315,279. This is 10 times the annual salary of a nurse.
The research also shows instances where the developers who make profits from sold off public land are able to avoid affordable housing requirements altogether:
In Stoke-on-Trent, Keepmoat is building 201 homes on the former site of Bucknall Hospital, but not a single property will be classed as affordable. Instead, the company is contributing just £209,000 towards affordable housing.
In Dorset, Holton Homes are building zero affordable homes on the site of a former residential care home, with no financial contribution towards affordable housing.
In West Yorkshire, Persimmon Homes was required to build 30% affordable housing on the site of Pontefract General Infirmary, but after pleading ‘financial inviability’ this was reduced to just 6%. Persimmon made pre-tax profits of £775 million in 2016.
In London, housing continues to be pulled further out of reach of ordinary people than in the rest of the UK. Of the planned homes for sale in the capital, none will be affordable to an NHS nurse or midwife on an average salary. And where they could afford the mortgage repayments, it would take an NHS key worker a minimum of 117 years to afford the deposit.
The average price for the new homes in London is £561,589. This is 18 times the annual salary of a nurse, and 29 times that of NHS clinical support staff. Only one site on NHS land in London will produce some homes with genuinely affordable social rent. Again, the research shows more instances where profiteering developers are able to avoid affordable housing requirements altogether:
In St John’s Wood, a community mental health unit has been sold off for the development of three five-storey townhouses, on a street where similar properties are worth around £3.75 million; 121 times the annual salary of a nurse. The developer is not building any affordable housing on site.
In Enfield, Chase Farm Hospital is being redeveloped into 138 homes. The council has a borough-wide target of 40% affordable housing, but the scheme has been approved with only 13% affordable housing.
The New Economics Foundation recommends that instead of the sale of public land to private developers, the Government should establish a People’s Land Bank, using surplus public sites to start building the millions of genuinely affordable homes that the UK needs.
The People’s Land Bank would be a ring-fenced, national stock of publicly-owned land that would be exclusively earmarked for the development of genuinely affordable housing built in direct partnership with communities and in response to community need.
Joe Beswick, Housing Lead at the New Economics Foundation, said: “These local NHS sites are community assets – they should be used to deliver community benefits. Public land – which is owned by all of us – is being flogged off to developers so that they can make massive profits, while producing a tiny amount of affordable housing. The UK is facing an enormous housing crisis, and the Government is making it worse.
“Every day, people are finding it harder and harder to find a decent, affordable place to live. Surplus public land could be used to start to solve this problem. Instead developers are earning record profits and paying CEOs £100m plus bonuses on the back of luxury properties built on NHS land.
“By selling off public land to the highest bidder, the Government is missing a chance to start solving the housing crisis. Surplus public land should be put into a ‘People’s Land Bank’ – a national stock of land that earmarked for genuinely affordable social housing. The Government should stop using national assets to line the pockets of developers, and instead put public land to public use.”