Ideology, housing and land value capture: Uncovering the politics of development land value

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: Cardiff School of Planning and Geography


Research Context

We are living through an era marked by crises through which dominant ideas are being challenged. The climate crisis, the Covid-19 crisis, the ongoing effects of the Global Financial Crisis, the housing crisis - the political ruptures and debates engendered by these connected issues appear to be fracturing a consensus of liberal ideas that has held for the last 40 years. One area in which this is particularly evident is land - specifically the issue of land ownership and the ownership of land value.

Who should own land and who should own the value associated with land have always been highly political questions. This has become even more evident over the last decade as the crisis in supply of affordable housing has assumed greater importance on the policy agenda. This is because it is partly from land value increases that new affordable housing and the infrastructure required to support new housing development is funded. The policy area related to this is called 'land value capture' or 'betterment' policy.

The housing crisis has therefore put significant pressure on governments to do something about the problem of housing supply, housing affordability and land values. This is currently prompting policymakers and politicians in England to consider potentially radical ideas. Some of these ideas are being supplied by the think tank and campaign industries that have an interest in land policy - and these ideas are now being increasingly reported in the non-specialist press.

We are therefore living through a moment where there is significant potential for a rethink of fundamental questions concerning land ownership and the distribution of land values and what these values are used to pay for. This has traditionally been a technical and specialist policy area but thanks to the politics of the various crises that characterise the current moment, land value policy is now part of mainstream political debate. This is changing the politics of land and housing.

Aims and Objectives

The aim of the research is to analyse and understand the politics of contemporary debates concerning land values in England in their historical context. This will aid understanding of the forces that drive and constrain change in national land value capture and betterment policy so that we can better understand what kinds of solutions might be acceptable in the future.

To achieve this the research seeks to develop a clear and systematic understanding of:

- how national land value capture and betterment policy has been shaped by the politics of the past;
- how and why political debate concerning land value capture was relatively silent in the 1980s to early 2000s;
- why this area of policy has recently returned to live political debate; and
- the nature of the politics of contemporary debates concerning wealth held in land and the intervention of the state in the ownership of land value for the benefit of society.

Potential Applications and Benefits

The project will develop a methodology for applying political theories for the analysis of political ideologies to analyses of policy change. It will bring into the open the latent political theoretical concepts which are core to debates about the ownership and distribution of increases in land value. The importance and potential societal benefits of land value capture and betterment policy will be disseminated to the non-expert public via blog posts and non-specialist policy briefings. By bringing together a network of specialists to discuss the politics of land value capture, a community of experts will be established which can subsequently push this research agenda forward. The project will provide up-to-date data and insights regarding the national policymaking process in England which will be of use to policy experts who wish to influence debate and the direction of national policy regarding land.


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