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Landlords: We need to build on the green belt to drive supply

Landlords are unconvinced housing secretary Michael Gove’s focus on brownfield sites will help the government increase housing supply, Mortgages For Business research shows.

When asked if the country could tackle the housing crisis by building on brownfield sites alone, almost a quarter of landlords (24%) said they thought it was possible.

Three times that many (76%) thought the housing crisis could not be solved by building on brownfield sites alone.

In the summer, Rishi Sunak promised that his government would deliver new homes without “concreting over the countryside” as he set out plans to focus housebuilding in areas that are already built up.”

Gavin Richardson, managing director of MFB, said: “Building in urban areas is an important element in providing more homes but there’s a question of capacity.

“There’s only scope for 2,000 homes to be built on brownfield sites in Oxford, for example, while in Cambridge it is 2,500.

“Furthermore, building in Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool is not going to solve the housing shortage in the southeast.

“To do that, we are going to have to build on London’s green belt. Until we accept the need for a ‘green and brown belt’ around London, the South East will continue to be short of homes, which will, of course, support the business plans of thousands of landlords.”

In July Gove announced a review of permitted development rights, while he set out plans to make it easier to convert large shops — such as takeaways and bookmakers — and offices into homes. Gove also said red tape could be cut to enable barn conversions.

Landlords don’t seem it will make much difference to supply, as 59% said the reforms are “unlikely to scratch the surface”.

Only 7% of landlords thought that Gove’s review was likely to achieve a great deal, while 15% said the reforms could work “to a small degree, but not at scale”.

Some 19% actually reckon the reforms could make the housing shortage worse, as they focus attention on building homes in cities — and allow politicians to ignore the need to scrap planning laws if we are to build enough homes to right-size our housing supply.

In July, Michael Gove also promised the creation of city development corporations with the power to buy up brownfield land and sell it on to housing developers.

His big-city building drive will involve ministers seizing control of brownfield areas to push through new projects.

Gove said he was planning more than a dozen new development corporations that would be able to use compulsory purchase orders and grant planning permission to boost building in urban areas.

Richardson added: “Britain needs more homes to fulfil more dreams of home ownership and increase choice for renters.

“t’s great that these proposals mean that fewer empty shops or offices are left gathering dust while we have an urgent need for more homes.

“But on their own, a review of the rules around permitted development rights is not going to achieve very much.

“This is a small piece of a very large puzzle — on its own, there’s no way it is going to fix the housing crisis.”