Commenting on the government's proposal to build and sell homes on public sector land, Deputy Director of the Adam Smith Institute, Sam Bowman, said:
Danny Alexander seems to have gotten the wrong end of the stick. The housing shortage does not exist because the private sector doesn’t want to build new homes – prices are rising rapidly, which signals demand is outstripping supply and there is profit to be made. The problem is that developable land is so scarce because the planning system makes it so.
Auctioning developable plots of government land for private sector construction would be a good idea, but if the private sector is not interested in the land the government is selling, it is because it is not in places people want to live. If the government goes ahead with building after the private sector has shown no interest in doing so, it means spending money it doesn’t have on homes that nobody really wants.
This announcement feels like just one more misstep by the government on planning and housing – the key is not just to build more houses, but to build more houses that people actually want to live in. The answer is to free up land in places where demand is already there – rolling the Green Belt back by a few miles around England’s cities would be the surest way to bring land and house prices down for good.
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The Adam Smith Institute is an independent libertarian think tank based in London. It advocates classically liberal public policies to create a richer, freer world.