Land reform can play an important role in ensuring that the housing land market and development approach meets Scotland's needs. Addressing these challenges and helping to deliver well-planned sustainable communities in places people want to live at prices they can afford.
We have investigated the options to ensure that sufficient affordable land for housing is available in the right places to meet housing need. Significant reform is needed to the way land is brought forward for housing and development if Scotland is to build the houses it needs.
Our review and recommendations to Scottish Ministers about land for housing – the culmination of two years’ work on this topic – we are proposing a new model where the public sector takes a leading role in the housing land market to create places people want to live at prices they can afford.
We have made recommendations to help Scotland deliver more homes more quickly – while also delivering benefits that go well beyond that. Changing the way that we deliver land for housing can help to deliver major policy objectives – addressing rural depopulation and revitalising declining town centres by enabling quality affordable housing to be delivered. There is also an opportunity to increase the quality of places, creating walkable 20 minute neighbourhoods and providing access to quality green space.
We propose that the public sector plays a much more active role in land assembly and strategic land promotion to reduce development risk and so increase housing delivery and create better places. With the focus of public sector activity being on better use and re-use of public sector land and then on bringing forward sites for development that would not usually be developed on their own by the private sector – particularly mixed ownership sites in regeneration areas and land in rural Scotland.
The recommendations are structured to provide a practical pathway to implementing reforms in a phased way:
- Establish a new recyclable fund to help create a network of ‘place pioneers’ – an ambitious programme of affordable housing delivery utilising repurposed publicly owned property assets in town centres and privately owned housing stock in remote rural communities.
- Empower local authorities to designate Regeneration Partnership Zones to speed up the redevelopment of land in fragmented or multiple ownership so that landowners and public authorities can share the long-term uplift in land values.
- Introduce new approach(es) to land value capture to ensure that uplifts in land value arising from public investment in infrastructure and land remediation are captured effectively and invested in place-making.
- Create a new public land agency, with the power and resources to ensure that a steady supply of development-ready sites is brought forward at the right time and in the right places to meet Scotland’s housing needs.
- Introduce a new transparency obligation that would require options agreements and conditional contracts over land to be disclosed on a public register that is kept updated alongside regular publication of a statistical bulletin on land sales prices.
This Land Focus provides a useful summary of our research and recommendations.