I don’t watch a lot of television but last night I watched Channel 4’s Dispatches program ‘The Great Housing Scandal’. It was quite shocking.
We have a major shortage of affordable homes in this country and nationwide there are 3 million people estimated to be on Council house waiting lists
At the start of the program, it shows David Cameron in 2011 promising to release enough land to build 100,000 homes. Sounds good!
However, 5 years later, it is a different story.
Here are some of the programs findings:
The program concentrates mostly on land sold by the MOD. They found that in many cases land was sold at a massive undervalue – mainly because it was sold without planning permission.
In a discussion with a local valuer – who valued several of the sites at about double the value they were actually sold at – we learn that one of the sites was very quickly sold on a double the purchase price giving a massive profit to the purchaser (and no homes). That’s taxpayers land, remember.
For about half the sites sold by the MOD no planning permission has been obtained or even applied for – so obviously no affordable homes are going to be built there any time soon.
In Knightsbridge a former underground station (estimated to have space for 20 homes) was sold to a Ukrainian oligarch for 53 million pounds on a special deferred payment deal (in effect he was given a loan). It does not look as if any homes are going to be built though as the buyer owns the house next door and Despatches implied that he is probably looking to extend it …
Minley Manor in Surrey which had potential for 50 homes was sold for £8 million but is actually being developed as a six star hotel.
Another property in Whitehall, the old war office, with space for 100 new homes, is being developed as another luxury hotel and 50 top level flats – but no affordable ones.
Overall it looks as if half of the plots sold by the MOD will have fewer affordable homes than the Local Authority target, meaning less than ¼ of the homes (when built) will be affordable.
There is an entertaining section in the program, featuring Princess Anne’s husband Sir Tim Lawrence (formerly of the MOD), where the presenter films himself on an iphone on a selfie stick, .
Finally it appears that some of the land included in the target had actually already been sold off by the MOD before the plan was announced – presumably to buyers who had no intention of using it for affordable homes.
In summary therefore
Of all the land sold by the MOD on which 39,000 homes were supposed to be built, the program could only find 64 which had actually been built so far – and some of them were being sold at upwards of a 3.5 million pounds each. Hardly affordable.
So the tax payer is being ripped off twice – the land is being sold cheap and the affordable houses are not being built.
In total, overall, just 1,800 (according to the program) homes have actually been built of the estimated 100,000 promised.
Politicians who fail to deliver
David Cameron seems like a nice bloke, he looks good in a suit and is able to deliver a decent speech without notes (and he loves Larry the cat). But he is obviously unable to deliver a desperately needed affordable housing program.
It is easy to make promises. It is something else to actually achieve what is promised. Why am I not surprised that this has happened?
Let us hope that Mrs May’s government, who it seems are looking to deliver a similar and more ambitious program, do better.
You will find the program online here for the next 30 days, but note that it would not play for me and I was only able to watch it on the ipad Channel 4 app.