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Social Housing Speed Read – The Homes and Communities Agency is relaunched as Homes England

The rebrand of the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) was announced in the Housing White paper last February and on 11 January 2018 the new national housing agency, Homes England, was launched by Housing secretary Sajid Javid. The new agency is set to partner up with groups of housing associations and boost housing development nationwide.

Homes England 

The re-branding of the HCA came soon after former junior justice minister Dominic Raab was appointed housing minister, and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) was renamed Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

Last year an extensive review of the HCA was conducted by the DCLG. The review concluded that the HCA needed to do more to increase the ‘scale and pace’ of house building and respond to the crisis by building more homes directly on public sector land whilst working alongside other organisations in partnership. As a consequence, Homes England is intended to be the Governments ‘commercially focused’ agency.

Last year’s housing white paper, ‘Fixing our Broken Housing Market’, stated that the unifying purpose of Homes England is to ‘make a home within reach of everyone’. The Government announcement of the relaunch said that the new body will be significant in helping to deliver 300,000 new homes by mid 2020’s, making resource of brownfield sites and securing land in areas where ‘people want to live’.

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”.

Regulation of social housing

The regulatory limb of the HCA has also relaunched as the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH). Fiona MacGregor, executive director of regulation at RSH, has said in a letter to housing providers that previous reviews of the HCA recognise that regulation of social housing should be separated from its investment functions. She also said that “the change is to the regulator’s operating name only and does not alter our regulatory framework, approach or powers”.

However, Homes England and RSH will legally continue to remain as part of the HCA, working as two distinct bodies, until the legislation establishing them as individual bodies is enacted.

Boosting housing development

Homes England will be granted new land-buying powers, including the ability to issue compulsory purchase orders. Nick Walkley, Chief Executive of Homes England, said the body will use their land and finance expertise to expand development of affordable homes.

Nick Walkley has also said that Homes England want a partnership approach to working with housing associations and individual providers. This means that housing associations will benefit from Homes England’s help with financing, risk sharing and land assembly/buying powers and their ability to issue compulsory purchase orders.

According to the Government, over 26,000 hectares of developable brownfield land has been revealed since local authorities have published a brownfield register. Homes England will be able to use this land to progress developments across brownfield sites, working towards the aim of building ‘where people want to live’. The agency has already supported the development of 10,000 new homes on a brownfield site near Cambridge and a 3,200 new homes site in South Yorkshire.

If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect social housing providers, or any other questions as a social housing provider, please do not hesitate to contact John Murray or a member of our expert Social Housing Team.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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