The government has published a wide-ranging review of the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) to “help improve its efficiency and provide greater focus to its housebuilding work.”
The Tailored Review found the HCA is well positioned to help “achieve national housebuilding ambitions and play a vital role in creating a housing market.”
The Review concluded that the agency should continue in its current form as a public body with a renewed and revitalised purpose of supporting housebuilding and increasing the supply of available land.
The regulator recently called for a fee for social housing regulation, with £5 per social housing unit being charged. They have also warned surpluses must be matched by growth in order for them not to be scrutinised.
To help achieve this purpose it also recommended that the agency’s social housing regulation function should become a separate public body. This is an administrative change that will not affect the regulator’s powers or operations.
Housing and Planning Minister, Gavin Barwell MP, said: “We are determined to create a housing market that works for everyone and the Homes and Communities Agency and regulator will play an important role in delivering the homes this country needs.
“The agency will be vital for boosting housebuilding and speeding up the delivery of new homes so all can benefit from having somewhere safe and secure to live.
“And as a new standalone body the regulator will ensure the social housing sector continues to benefit from strong, independent governance.”
The Chairman of the HCA, Sir Edward Lister, said: “The Homes and Communities Agency has a strong track record of delivering the government’s housing targets but we know we need to do even more in future to ensure more people have the opportunity to own their own home.
“We therefore fully welcome the recommendations of the government’s review. We are already implementing a number of changes to our operating model to help speed up delivery and promote new approaches to housebuilding.
“We will set out how we intend to play a more active role in the delivery of the government’s increased housing ambitions in the coming months.”
Julian Ashby, Chair of the HCA Regulation Committee, said: “The HCA Regulation Committee welcomes the government’s continued commitment to having a strong and independent regulator for the social housing sector. The decision to separate the regulator from the HCA will strengthen our ability to promote a viable, efficient and well-governed social housing sector able to deliver homes that meet a range of needs.
“This change is to the organisational structure and governance of the regulator only and will not impact on our regulatory approach or day to day operations.
“There will be regular dialogue with stakeholders throughout the implementation process, building on the discussions held during the tailored review, through DCLG’s consultation being launched today and the consultation we are undertaking on fee charging. We will maintain our focus on delivering our statutory objectives throughout.”
John Bryant, Policy Leader for Regulation at the National Housing Federation, said:
“The Federation welcomes the proposal to remove the regulation function from the HCA and locate it in a separate body.
“We have always argued that the regulation and investment functions are distinct and that the institutional architecture should reflect this.
“This will streamline processes and increase effectiveness across the organisation and help to foster the right environment for housing associations to deliver the houses our nation needs. We will maintain a close dialogue with the HCA throughout the implementation process.”
Terrie Alafat CBE, chief executive of CIH, said: “We support the creation of an independent regulator. The HCA has done an excellent job as regulator, but changed circumstances mean that it is right to consider different arrangements.
“An independent regulator will remove any possibility for a conflict of interest with the Homes and Communities Agency’s funding arm and create a robust backdrop for organisations to deliver the new housing we so desperately need.”
Mark Farmer, co-founder and CEO of Cast consultancy, and author of the Farmer Review, said:
“Giving the Homes and Communities Agency a more active role in house building was one of the key recommendations of my recent review into the future of construction.
“Separating the social housing sector governance and administration function will assist with the focus needed here.
“Maximum effort must now be applied on the effective deployment of the significant investments recently announced by government such as the Accelerated Construction Scheme plus Home Building Fund.
“I also look forward to possibility of more direct interventions using pre-manufacturing as a delivery mechanism.
“The construction industry needs more stable demand patterns and enabling incentives if it is to undertake the necessary reforms in order to modernise, and the HCA taking on a more active rather than passive role will help ensure Britain gets the new homes where they are needed.”