Javid takes aim at 300,000-a-year target with new housing agency

Housing and communities secretary Sajid Javid has this week launched a new agency aimed at helping the government reach its ambitious 300,000 homes a year target.

The new organisation, named Homes England, will be gifted new land buying powers so that it can focus on securing space for housebuilding in areas where people want to live.

It is also tasked with supporting smaller house building companies to get into the market, as well as resourcing new brownfield sites where homes could be built.

The organisation will work with around 310 councils which have now published brownfield registers that reveal new land which could potential be used for future developments.

This is the first major housing decision made by Sajid Javid since he was given greater responsibility for homes in the recent cabinet reshuffle.

The secretary announced Homes England while visiting Alconbury in Cambridgeshire, the site of a former airfield which is now part of plans to build a new development of 5,000 homes, a strategy the government hopes to repeat across other areas.

Speaking at the site, Javid commented: “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.

“The development at Alconbury is a prime example of how the agency has worked to deliver thousands of new homes, as well as improve roads and create space for local businesses.

“The new agency will be key in replicating this approach right across the country and will help us build a Britain fit for the future.”

Scheme to target supporting SMEs

Run through the Homes and Communities Agency, Homes England will also have a hand in supporting SMEs, a task which the government has allotted around £750m of its £1bn short term housing fund to.

Nick Walkley, chief executive of the new organisation, said: “As Homes England, we will use our land, finance and expertise to expand the delivery of affordable new homes and connect ambitious partners to remove barriers to house building.”

As well as finding sites for new construction, Homes England is expected to push forward with new methods of building which are faster and more efficient.

Sir Ed Lister, chairman of the agency, said it would be trying to “set the bar high for others” and “stimulate demand” for new construction techniques.

Previously the DCLG, Javid’s department has become the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), following the reshuffle, which the secretary says “reflects this government’s renewed focus to deliver more homes and build strong communities across England.”

The launch of Homes England has been hailed by many in the housing sector for offering new opportunities at expansion across the country.

Terrie Alafat, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), commented: “The agency promises to bring together a greater range of strategic powers and resources, which combined with its expertise, will allow it to take new and innovative approaches which could make a real difference to get us building more homes at a crucial time.”

There will also be a focus on affordable homes, a move which echoes prime minister Theresa May’s recent £2bn of additional funding, released in October last year to aid with the shortage of social rent housing.

Top image: Duncan Andison

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