Land agents Aston Mead have thrown their full support behind the winning idea in this year’s £50,000 Richard Koch Breakthrough Prize from the Institute of Economic Affairs.

The prize, supported by entrepreneur Richard Koch, sought to find the best and boldest entry outlining a ‘free market breakthrough’ policy to solve the UK housing crisis. It was judged by a panel including Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, Richard Koch and Mark Littlewood, Director General at the IEA.

The winning entry proposes the ‘Land Purchase Act’ – a market-based policy that centres on how swathes of public land can be made available for people to build homes according to their own choice and preference. The essay argues that the shortage of affordable housing in the UK has been caused by strict and outdated planning laws.

The submission makes the case for releasing surplus or underused public land to help people onto the housing ladder. Such a move could deliver as many as two million new homes, the majority of which would be built in areas where there is high demand for housing.

Charles Hesse, Aston Mead Land & Planning Director, said: “This is exactly the sort of original, dynamic and creative thinking that is needed to solve the country’s housing crisis. Not only does it support what we have been proposing for many years, it offers a real-world, practical solution which could be implemented straight away and would make a very real difference.”

Under the proposal, the government would enter into a contract with the occupier, who would take out a mortgage to cover the cost of building the property on the land. The occupier would decide on the style of house to be built and given a choice over the timescale and structure in which they gradually acquire private ownership. There would also be a reduced number of planning restrictions on houses built on the land made available.

To ensure the scheme is not captured by short-termist developers, certain safe-guards would be put in place. For example, age, employment status and whether the occupier is a recipient of government assistance related to housing could all be included in the criteria.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP for North East Somerset and member of the Breakthrough Prize judging panel, said: “A free market solution to the housing shortage would reinvigorate our home owning democracy. It is the most important political challenge once Brexit is concluded.”

Charles Hesse added: “There’s no doubt that we need to increase the rate of house building in the UK. This proposal offers a quick and simple way of releasing government-owned land - often in areas where people actively want to live - where they can choose the style and type of home they create, free from the usual burdensome planning restrictions.

It would fundamentally rewrite the policy landscape in housing and should be welcomed by everyone.”

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