We have, for some years now, been saying that Britain doesn't have a shortage of land to build upon but does have a shortage of land that people are allowed to build upon. That permission to build is artificially constricted by the state and any solution has to be an increase in the number of those permits granted. So, this looks encouraging:
Billions of pounds worth of public land and buildings could be sold off with planning permission already granted to solve the housing crisis, David Cameron will announce today. In a major speech ahead of the spending review the prime minister will outline plans to cut waste, sell off government assets and merge public services as Ministers attempt to save cash.
Of course, it's entirely possible for such schemes to die in a blizzard of bureaucracy. But government as a whole grants planning permission and government as a whole owns a lot of land. So, if they can manage to get their act together they could in fact achieve what would be at least a partial solution to our housing problems: the release to hte market of substantial amounts of land with planning permissions.
That government will capture the value of the granting of the planning permission is an added bonus. Government should, after all, capture the value that government creates where this is possible. But it's not the point and purpose of the scheme at all: that is simply to make available more land to build upon.
We'll have to see how well government can deal with its own bureaucracy though. One could, for example, imagine local authorities being forced to grant outline permissions but then, when the project is bought by private interests, playing silly buggers with the detailed implementation. We'll see no doubt...