Press Releases

Four out of five homes built on NHS land are unaffordable to nurses

Instead of selling off NHS land, the Government should create a People’s Land Bank and use the land to build affordable homes

  • NHS land is being sold to private developers – but four out of five of the planned homes for sale will be unaffordable to nurses.
  • Only one in ten of the planned homes will be for genuinely affordable social rent.
  • The average expected sale price for the new homes is 10 times the annual salary of a nurse.
  • The New Economics Foundation is calling for the creation of a People’s Land Bank, a ring-fenced, national stock of publicly-owned land for the development of genuinely affordable housing. 

The Government’s sale of NHS land is failing to produce affordable homes and is exacerbating the affordability crisis across the UK, according to new research from the New Economics Foundation.

The research involved a comprehensive analysis of the 59 NHS sites that have been sold so far under the Government’s public land sale programme. It finds that, of the planned homes for sale, four out of five will be unaffordable to a nurse on an average salary. And where they could afford the mortgage repayments, a nurse would have to save for an average of 53 years to afford the deposit.

Only one in ten of the homes built on NHS land will be for genuinely affordable social rent. The average expected sale price for the new homes, based on area estimates, is £315,279. This is 10 times the annual salary of a nurse.

The research also shows instances where the developers who make profits from sold public land are sometimes able to avoid affordable housing requirements altogether:

  • In Stoke-on-Trent, Keep Moat is building 201 homes on the former site of Bucknall Hospital, but not a single property will be classed as affordable. Instead, the company is contributing just £209,000 towards affordable housing.
  • In Dorset, Holton Homes are building zero affordable homes on the site of a former residential care home, with no financial contribution towards affordable housing.
  • In West Yorkshire, Persimmon Homes was required to build 30% affordable housing on the site of Pontefract General Infirmary, but after pleading financial inviability’ this was reduced to just 6%. Persimmon made pre-tax profits of £775 million in 2016.

The New Economics Foundation recommends that instead of the sale of public land to private developers, the Government should establish a People’s Land Bank, using surplus public sites to start building the millions of genuinely affordable homes that the UK needs.

The People’s Land Bank would be a ring-fenced, national stock of publicly-owned land that would be exclusively earmarked for the development of genuinely affordable housing built in direct partnership with communities and in response to community need.

Joe Beswick, Housing Lead at the New Economics Foundation, said:

These local NHS sites are community assets – they should be used to deliver community benefits. Public land – which is owned by all of us – is being flogged off to developers so that they can make massive profits, while producing a tiny amount of affordable housing. The UK is facing an enormous housing crisis, and the Government is making it worse.

Every day, people are finding it harder and harder to find a decent, affordable place to live. Surplus public land could be used to start to solve this problem. Instead developers are earning record profits and paying CEOs £100m plus bonuses on the back of luxury properties built on NHS land.

By selling off public land to the highest bidder, the Government is missing a chance to start solving the housing crisis. Surplus public land should be put into a People’s Land Bank’ – a national stock of land that earmarked for genuinely affordable housing. The Government should stop using national assets to line the pockets of developers, and instead put public land to public use.”

Notes to editors

1. The New Economics Foundation is the UK’s only people-powered think tank. The Foundation works to build a new economy where people really take control. www​.newe​co​nom​ics​.org

2. Main data source: Annual report of Government Land Sale, Feb 17 (covering sales 15/​16 and 16/​17). See www​.gov​.uk/​g​o​v​e​r​n​m​e​n​t​/​p​u​b​l​i​c​a​t​i​o​n​s​/​p​u​b​l​i​c​-​l​a​n​d​-​f​o​r​-​h​o​u​s​i​n​g​-​p​r​o​g​r​a​m​m​e​-​2​0​1​5​-​t​o​-​2​0​2​0​-​a​n​n​u​a​l​-​r​eport

3. Note on methodology: NEF searched council planning portals for the planning documents for each site to find the number of market dwellings, affordable housing, and breakdown of affordable housing proposed for each development. We were able to find details for 49 out of a total of 59 sites sold by the Department of Health in 2015 – 16 and 2016 – 17.

We then calculated the total affordable and social rent dwellings planned as a proportion of all the dwellings proposed.

For the affordability for key workers question, we took average price of newbuilds from 2015 to the present in the first half of the postcode of each development. We got the data from the Land Registry Price Paid database, and took the average of 100+ properties where possible.

We took the annual salary of key NHS workers (nurse, midwife, infrastructure support staff, ambulance staff and clinical staff) from the NHS’s own statistics (see https://​dig​i​tal​.nhs​.uk/​a​r​t​i​c​l​e​/​6​7​4​2​/​S​t​a​f​f​-​e​a​r​nings).

We have calculated whether key NHS workers could a) afford the monthly repayments for dwellings on the site, and b) how long it would take them to save up for the deposit to buy a dwelling on the site at market rate.

For these calculations, the following assumptions were used. These were based on methodologies in similar studies, where possible.

Assumption Reason Source
Single full-time worker
20% deposit requirement About two thirds of first time buyers (64%) pay a deposit up to 20% of the purchase price.” English Housing Survey 15 – 16
25 year mortgage term Typical mortgage term
3.34% fixed interest rate Current UK Average Mortgage Rate, used by IPPR in their recent report on affordability TotallyMoney mortgage rate predictor
Monthly salary after tax = monthly income — 20% tax + national insurance contribution This is the maximum monthly salary after tax someone could have, but they are likely to have less if they have a student loan to pay off, for example. Take-Home Tax Calculator
<45% is an affordable amount of your take home salary to spend on housing Shelter say 35%, but generally people may be able to spend more than this, which we have factored in. However: on average, those buying their home with a mortgage spent 18% of their household income on mortgage payments.” English Housing Survey 15 – 16
People can save 5% of monthly income after housing costs (which we assume are 45% of their salary) Resolution Foundation uses 5% of disposable income for low- to middle-income families. Resolution Foundation, Living Standards 2017

Figure 18


Sign up and receive updates on how you can take action over land sales in your area.


If you value great public services, protecting the planet and reducing inequality, please support NEF today.

Make a one-off donation

£5 £10 £25 £50 £100

Make a monthly donation

£3 £5 £10 £25 £100