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Think-tank report recommends release of green belt land to address housing shortage in UK cities

A report from think-tank the Centre for Cities has recommended the release of up to 12.5% of green belt land within the built up areas of the UK's ten least affordable cities in order to address the country's housing shortage.

The report, entitled ‘Delivering change: Building homes where we need them’ (50-page / 15.3 MB PDF) has noted that, relatively, more homes were built in areas of low demand and high affordability than in less affordable areas between 2008 and 2013. The authors have recommended that the construction of new housing be concentrated instead within the built up boundaries of cities, such as Oxford and London, “where affordability is lowest and demand is highest”.

The ten cities identified in the report as having the "least affordable housing in the country (using mean house price to mean income ratios", were: Oxford, London, Cambridge, Brighton, Borunemouth, Crawley, Aldershot, Reading, Bristol and Worthing.

While fully building out all available brownfield sites within the boundaries of the identified cities would provide "the capacity for around 425,000 extra houses", the report has noted that brownfield development is often expensive and time consuming, requiring land assembly and new infrastructure, concluding that "in many cities, brownfield sites are not in the best locations for new homes".

The think-tank has, therefore, recommended that "cities evaluate land on its merits rather than its existing designation", looking instead towards greenfield land within easy commuting distance, existing jobs and infrastructure. The authors have estimated that, by releasing around 5% of designated green belt land within the built up areas of the ten least affordable UK cities, enough land could be provided for up to 1.4 million new homes.

Noting that "around half of all urban workers live and work in different local authorities", the report has said that better co-operation between neighbouring councils in the delivery of housing and infrastructure could deliver still more homes within commuting distance of existing city centres. If both cities and their neighbouring local authorities released green belt land within a 25-minute walk of train stations, a total of 12.5% of green belt land surrounding the ten least affordable cities, this would provide sufficient land for 3.4 million new homes, the authors estimated. 

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