15 May 2019
It is now almost two years since the UK Government launched the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) in July 2017. This blog provides an overview of the announcements made to date on what funding has been granted to lower and upper tier authorities across England to help unlock thousands of new homes. Lichfields has been involved in preparing a number of HIF bids across the country.
First, let’s look at the Marginal Viability Fund (MVF), the smaller of the two HIF sub-funding pots. The MVF was designed to get housebuilding started quickly on sites where the upfront costs of putting in the infrastructure are not stacking up financially. Bids were capped at £10 million, although a higher level of funding may be awarded in exceptional circumstances if bids demonstrate a “transformational delivery of new homes”. The value of MVF funding available to lower tier authorities (e.g. Districts and Boroughs) is currently set at around £900 million, of which, £866.3 million was provisionally allocated to 133 bids from lower-tier authorities in February 2018. To date, 94 of the 133 bids with a combined value of around £605.9 million have been approved by the Government.
At the regional level, most of the approved funding has so far gone to lower-tier authorities in the South East and South West (£172.1 million and £121.5 million respectively), which is reflective of the two regions having the highest values of bids accepted by the Government in February 2018 (£224.5 million and £141.3 million respectively). In comparison, the East Midlands, West Midlands, North East, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber have lower combined values of accepted and approved bids (£291.2 million and £254.8 million respectively). These five regions also have lower values of accepted and approved MVF funding per resident then the other two.
MVF Status (May 2019)
Note: The ratios of provisionally accepted bid funding and approved bid funding per resident have been calculated by using the total value of each funding and dividing it by the population of each region in 2017, sourced from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), Mid-Year Population Estimates (2018).
Unlike the other regions, none of the provisionally accepted bids submitted by authorities in London has yet been approved by the Government. This may change as the Greater London Authority (GLA) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government to fund the £110.7 million of London projects, which signals the intention of approving the funding eventually.
The map below shows MVF awards by local authority to date.
Approved MVF Funding by Local Authority (at May 2019)
Note: the local authority boundaries do not reflect the changes that came into force during April 2019.
Those areas that have not benefitted from the MVF still stand to potentially gain funding from the Forward Fund (FF), which is substantially larger than the MVF with £4.1 billion of capital available and a maximum bid value of £250 million other than in exceptional circumstances. So far, seven successful FF bids have been confirmed (see the table below), with a combined value of £1.16 billion, or 28% of the total FF pot. Almost half of the £1.16 billion has been awarded to the GLA to improve the capacity of the Docklands Light Railway and to pay for infrastructure to unlock housing in part of the Old Oak and Park Royal Opportunity Area. London could further benefit from the FF if the other large-scale bids the GLA submitted such as for expanding capacity on the East London line and funding infrastructure at Meridian Water are approved.
Successful Forward Funding Projects (at May 2019)
Whilst it may seem that London will be the major beneficiary of the FF, other regions still stand to significantly benefit from it, with projects in Oxfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and Cumbria having been awarded over £100 million of funding apiece. Considerable amounts of funding were also announced for Devon and the North Cheshire Garden Village in East Cheshire. Lichfields assisted in the delivering the North Cheshire Garden Village bid by developing the economic case for the scheme and providing post-submission support to East Cheshire Council.
With the final round for bids closing on 22 March, we can expect that the remaining £2.9 billion of FF will be allocated once Government completes its appraisal and final co-development process with upper tier authorities which is in progress. It remains to be seen exactly how the Government will use the additional £500 million of funding added to the HIF in the Chancellor’s 2018 Autumn Budget. Further announcements are due shortly, and it will be interesting to see if and how the geographical allocation of funding changes as new HIF awards are confirmed.
 Introduction Housing Infrastructure Housing Infrastructure Fund Forward Funding Business  Budget 2018: HousingImage credit: Matt Buck
23 Jan 2018
In a few recent projects, I have used the former Department for Communities and Local Government’s (DCLG) – now known as the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government – land value uplift appraisal guide to help generate benefit to cost ratios (BCRs) for a number of public sector interventions. For the uninitiated, BCRs are used to assess the potential benefit resulting from an intervention (e.g. infrastructure investment) versus the cost to the public purse. The higher the BCR the better, and in theory, the more likely that public funding can be justified for the intervention. There are other factors that can be used in calculating BCRs, such as the impacts assessed under the Department for Transport’s (DfT’) WebTAG toolkit. However, land value uplift plays a significant role alongside these other factors and has been a key feature of government guidance since 2016.
To assess the benefits of an intervention on land value, the latest (December 2016) DCLG appraisal guide considers how and when land is transferred from one use to another (e.g. industrial to residential), following the logic that an intervention will induce land use change and additional development which is more productive than before. The guide recommends that to calculate land value change, it is best to use land values specific to a locality based that are on research. However, if this is not possible, the DCLG guide provides indicative values for residential land, by local authority and by region, for agricultural and industrial land.
The DCLG guide’s residential land value benchmarks show London and the South East as typically having the highest, as highlighted by the chart below. It should be noted the average residential land value for London (£29,100,000 per hectare) is based on a development density of 269 dwellings per hectare which when scaled down to a development density of 35 dwellings per hectare, (as used for the rest of England) decreases to £3,800,000 per hectare.
Source: DCLG / Lichfields analysisNote: The un-weighted land value for London assumes a development density of 269 dwellings per hectare, while the weighted land value assumes a development of 35 dwellings per hectare (as used for the rest of England)
The variation in residential land values is further highlighted by the heat map below, that shows the South East and London as including the majority of local authorities with residential land values of £5,000,000 per hectare and upwards. The upshot of this is that a residential development in one part of England could generate a substantially higher BCR than the same scheme in another location, potentially giving the first location an advantage in accessing public sector funds.
Source: DCLG / Lichfields analysis
To highlight the potential impact that varying residential land values can have on BCRs, I have run a test scenario based on:
a £20m public sector intervention delivered over a five-year period;
development induced by the intervention assumed to occur for the following ten years, with the land transferred from industrial to residential use, resulting in a change in land value;
2,000 dwellings are assumed to be delivered over the ten years at densities of 269 dwellings per hectare. in London and 35 dwellings per hectare. elsewhere in England, equating to 7.4 hectares and 57.1 hectares of land developed in each location; and
the land values used to calculate change are from the DCLG’ guide with a standard discount rate of 3.5% from the HM Treasury Green Book, so all BCRs are based on the net present value of the intervention cost and land value change. It should be noted that the BCRs do not take into account other potential benefits that might be assessed under DfT’s WebTAG toolkit, so they would likely be higher in reality.
The results of the test scenario at the regional level are presented in the bar chart below. Despite the assumption that development occurs at a density of 269 dwellings per hectare, the intervention on average in London would generate a higher BCR (7.6) than the other regions. However, these averages do not highlight the wider variation that occurs with the BCRs when the test scenario is run at a local authority level.
Source: Lichfields analysis
At the local authority level, the test scenario generates a wider variety of BCRs, including some which are negative, as DCLG’s residential land values for some local authorities such as Amber Valley and Copeland are lower than the regional industrial land values used in the scenario. The scenario also reveals that BCRs in London differ substantially between some inner and outer London Boroughs, as shown on the inset map below.
Source: Lichfields analysis
My analysis here is only based on a single set of assumptions and, in reality, the type and scale of intervention and the level of land use change could vary substantially. However, it does at least provide an indication that the DCLG guide’s benchmark land values and appraisal methodology may disadvantage some areas because of land value differentials; this is an important factor when assessing the benefits of public sector interventions.
This situation could evolve in the future as the Government’s recently published Industrial Strategy provides some indication that appraisal methods will in future be required to take account of a ‘rebalancing toolkit’, to address the fact that the benefits of investment cannot necessary be measured in narrow land value terms across all parts of the country. While no time frame is given for when a revision might happen, from my perspective it illustrates the need to take account of a range of wider economic impacts when appraising the case for a public sector intervention.
Image credit: Pixar Animation Studios