Opportunity for housing associations to access public land

Research by Campbell Tickell has uncovered an unexpected opportunity for housing associations to take advantage of their current status as public bodies. As reported in Inside Housing1, we have confirmed with the Cabinet Office that associations can make use of a 40 working day window to prepare bids for public land, before these opportunities are opened up to the market.

In outline, the system works like this.

  1. Land holding central government departments are obliged to update the electronic Property Management Information Mapping Service (e-PIMS) with details of surplus properties and land.
  2. Within 40 working days, an initial assessment will determine whether the land is suitable for the Government’s centralised disposal model.
  3. Public sector agencies – now including housing associations following the Office for National Statistics October 2015 classification decision – can access e-PIMS and use the 40 working day window to identify new uses for the land and carry out due diligence. It is not clear how long HAs will remain classified as public, or indeed whether the proposed deregulatory changes via the Housing & Planning Bill will be sufficient for ONS to ‘declassify’ the sector. Even if this does happen, we believe it is unlikely to be sooner than perhaps June 2016.

To take advantage of this opportunity, associations will need to move quickly, in order to assemble credible bids for parcels of public land that are becoming available.

Said Maggie Rafalowicz, Associate Director at Campbell Tickell,

“Although the classification of housing associations as public bodies was unwelcome for both the sector and the Government, we have identified an opportunity that associations committed to developing new homes may be able to use – provided they can gear up to act quickly. Since this news broke last week, we have been in discussion with a number of associations to see how they can take advantage of the opportunity.”

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