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Interview: Terrie Alafat from DCLG

Mon 11th November 2013, 4:01 pm

Terrie Alafat, director of housing at the Department for Communities and Local Government, found a few moments in her busy schedule to speak to Sitematch.

Terrie Alafat

What is your role and responsibilities?

I am the director of housing at DCLG, with oversight of all DCLG’s housing policies. This includes the disposal of government-held public-sector land and achieving the prime minister’s target of releasing public sector land with capacity for 100,000 homes by March 2015.

Why doe the DCLG want to be involved in Sitematch UK?

Because Sitematch has a proven track record of matching up developers and land-holders. With so many developers and land-holders in the same room, I am confident that this system will open up government land to many housing developers that may not otherwise have considered the option. 

What is the role of the cross-government land disposal group?

It straddles the current and future phase of public sector land disposal. Firstly, it will accelerate the disposal of surplus government-owned land with capacity for 100,000 homes by March 2015, then free up £5 billion worth of government land and property to help deliver £15 billion of asset sales between 2015 and 2020.

On what level does DCLG work with the Government Property Unit (GPU), strategic land review and individual government departments?

DCLG has strong relationships with individual government departments, including GPU and the strategic land review team. We have regular meetings on how best to drive forward land disposal across government, and have in place agreed project plans and delivery targets.

It is contributing directly to the Strategic Land Review, communicating with colleagues at GPU so that the review can help us to achieve the objectives set out at the recent spending review.

What are the main challenges for the public sector when disposing of public land?

It faces a number of challenges. Each government department’s landholdings differ in size, as do their experience in disposing of land and bringing it to market. For those smaller teams with perhaps less experience we need to look at ways we can support them to speed up delivery.

What (if anything) can be expected from developers?

Our main reason for releasing land fast is to ensure homes are built that this country needs. Bringing together developers and land-owners at events such as Sitematch will help to speed up this process, disposing of land and allowing developers to get on with building homes.

Other than Sitematch, what is DCLG doing to accelerate the release of public land for new homes?

It is working with the Homes and Communities Agency, which has acquired some of the sites in the current public sector land programme. Its expertise and proven track record of disposing of land has helped DCLG to drive forward disposal of these sites quickly.

The government has also committed to using 'build now, pay later' (a deferred receipts model), where there is market demand and where it represents value for money. This will enable builders to start work on housing sites without having to bear the upfront cost of paying for the land, and will enable them to use scarce funding for preparatory works, such as obtaining a planning permission and providing infrastructure, rather than tying up money in land ownership. 

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