Labour could accelerate plans to reveal the owners of offshore companies holding UK property and publish details of land owned by trusts to tackle money laundering.
A recent analysis by campaign group Global Witness found more than 87,000 properties in England and Wales were owned by companies registered in tax havens.
Although most of the purchases were legitimate, several London homes have recently come under the scrutiny of the National Crime Agency, which last week obtained freezing orders on properties worth a combined £80m.
The proposals are among recommendations made in a report commissioned by the Labour party, which looks at all aspects of land policy, from ownership data to planning policies. It also recommends the introduction of jury service in planning applications to allow more community members to become involved in decision making.
The report, Land for the many [pdf], argues that transparency of property ownership is a key part of tackling money laundering and revealing how land is controlled by developers.
The authors said that to discover who owns all of the land in the UK would cost £72m in fees to the Land Registry. They have therefore proposed several changes to make the information more accessible.
These include a fully public register of “option to purchase” agreements between land owners and developers, as well as a register of ownership by UK and overseas trusts. The party should also speed up plans for a register of the ultimate beneficial owners of companies that hold UK land and property, the report states.
The policy, which was originally announced in 2016 by David Cameron after the disclosures of the Panama Papers, is not due to come into force until 2021.
Although Labour has already proposed a 15% surcharge on the price of residential properties that are bought by companies owned through offshore jurisdictions, the report recommends extending this to commercial properties.
Many office and retail sites are owned in this way, although the tax advantages of using offshore companies have been slowly chipped away at.
The shadow minister for the cabinet office, Jon Trickett, said the report was “timely and inspiring” and would be considered carefully. “For too long, lack of transparency over who owns land has led the UK to become a playground for criminals,” he said.
“Dirty money being pumped into the UK housing market is artificially hiking up the price of homes, leaving home ownership out of reach of so many hardworking people.”
The report, edited by Guardian columnist George Monbiot and written by academics and experts, says Labour should adopt “an explicit goal of stabilising land and house prices”.
To do this, it says, will take bold policies, including a cap on annual rent rises and restrictions on buy-to-let mortgages. Other suggestions include phasing out stamp duty land tax for people buying homes to live in, higher capital gains tax on second homes and investment properties, and the replacement of inheritance tax with a tax on the value of gifts made while the giver is still alive.
Labour said it would be considering the recommendations when developing policy before the next election.