On 1 December 2008, the new Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) will come into play, bringing with it up to £5 billion each year.
The agency, dubbed a ‘superquango’, will be the government’s key player in keeping housing and regeneration moving during the downturn, and could be crucial in providing work to architects.
‘The key focus of the HCA is to keep activity moving,’ says chief executive Bob Kerslake.
‘These are very difficult times and what people often need to focus on is laying the foundations for sites – continuing to masterplan sites and looking at feasibility studies, setting design standards and, where possible, developing schemes in anticipation of the upturn.’
Kerslake indicates that there will still be work in the social-housing sector for architects, but admits that housing architects should not rely on this work.
‘We will obviously try to keep the social housing going where we can, but we need to keep a mix of tenure,’ he says. ‘If we can get the properties to market and start selling shared ownership, we can hopefully start engaging people to buy.’
Kerslake says the HCA will also look to forge partnerships with local authorities to free up more public land at cheaper rates, which could provide more feasibility work for architects.
New land deals could also, according to Kerslake, reveal more opportunities for a different type of housing developer to move into the sector – one which will be looking to work with housing architects.
‘Commercial developers have experience in running developments over a sustained period of time,’ he says. ‘I think there will be a move into the private and social rented sector. And the agency will want to play a big part in working with them.’
‘The HCA will also look to bring sites forward [in the same way that] local housing companies have entered into joint ventures recently.
‘We would like to try that on a national basis – a joint venture with an investor to play a part in delivering our sites.
‘This will not counter the effects of the credit crunch, but we can use public money to keep momentum going.’
How to bag this client: Have a strong background in housing design and preferably be on one of English Partnerships’ numerous framework panels