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Lib Dems propose land-buying agency to boost house building

Vince Cable proposed a state-backed agency to compulsorily purchase land for building and called for measures to allow construction on some green belt sites. In a speech at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London, the Liberal Democrat leader proposed a big expansion in rent-to-own, where some people in new developments could pay a market rent in exchange for a gradual stake in the property, thereby subsidising social rents.

The speech came as the government announced £1.67bn in funding for 23,000 affordable homes across England, including 15,000 for social rent. The funding is part of a previous commitment of up to £9bn for affordable housing.

However, the most eye-catching element of Cable’s speech was when he spoke of a so-called British Housing Company, an arm’s length government agency assigned to acquiring land at low cost.

Using compulsory acquisition powers given by law, the organisation would aim to save money by purchasing land at a price that would not include a hike in value factored in to include possible planning permission.

“The aim would be to acquire sites at a price as low as 40% of land acquired in the open market without paying the ‘hope value’ which attaches to those sites currently earmarked as having development potential,” Cable said.

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