The government’s housing delivery agency, the Homes and Communities Agency, has changed its name to become Homes England
The switch, trailed in November’s budget, follows the government’s announcement earlier this week that it would rebrand the Communities department as the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
The government said in the budget that the relaunched agency – which will lose powers of social housing regulation – will begin to intervene more actively to buy land for housing.
Housing secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘This government is determined to build the homes our country needs and help more people get on the housing ladder. Homes England will be at the heart of leading this effort.’
Alex Ely, founding partner of Mæ Architects, gave a cautious welcome to the rebranding. He said: ‘Some of the noises from the government show the government is acknowledging the seriousness of the housing issue.
‘However, without significant funding and the recognition that the state has a big role in providing social housing, we are not going to get very far.’
In the budget, the government announced that the agency will oversee a new £1.1 billion land assembly fund, which it said would ‘enable Homes England to work alongside private developers to develop strategic sites, including new settlements and urban regeneration schemes’.
Ely said that this money would be best used to stop the ‘stupid horse trading’ of land between developers.
‘Often,’ he said, ‘housing land is delayed because the land is traded rather than developed. This stops delivery and pushes up prices.’
Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: ‘It is clear there is growing momentum behind the government’s housing agenda and we are delighted with the continuing policy support for a multi-tenure approach to housing supply, creating great places and the remediation of land.
‘This will be vital if the Housing White Paper and the changes to the National Planning Policy Framework have any chance of making a significant impact on volume and affordability.’
Peter Barber of Peter Barber Architects
The housing policy of the government should be to end Right to Buy, introduce rent caps and aiming to replicate the levels of housing provision following World War II.
That is not what these people are talking about. They are talking about forging stronger links with housebuilders – which is a problem, because these people are a menace. Housing is a luxury, not a commodity.
Tony Pidgley, chairman, Berkeley Group
One hopes it is not window dressing. We all, and all political parties, recognise we have a housing crisis. We need to get this going and get the additional houses we need.