Homes England: No change or all change?

March 2, 2018 10:56 am Published by
The launch of Homes England

The launch of Homes England – Nick Walkley (CEO)  Sajid Javid (MP) & Edward Lister (Chair)

Remember all those shiny new initiatives the Chancellor announced back in November to address the ongoing concern about the supply of new homes and the gap between planning permissions granted and the number of homes built i.e. land banking?

Well, one of the most important of these, the launch of Homes England to replace the existing Homes & Communities Agency took place on Jan 11th.

Was this however anything more than just a change of name?

I thought I’d better take a look.

And, yes, there’s mention on Homes England’s website and talk elsewhere that Homes England is going to have a stronger ability to use investment and planning powers to intervene in the housing market.

It’s just not that clear as yet what these new powers will be.

In contrast what is clear is that the new agency essentially has the same remit, is led by the same people and continues to drive forward the same policies, initiatives and ideas in the autumn budget and last year’s housing white paper.

So not that much appears to have changed really.

Saying this, the rebranding exercise and aim of creating a “commercially focused land and investment agency” is for me yet more evidence of an increasingly muscular approach by a frustrated government to supply issues in the housing market.

And this is interesting as it begs the question what comes next.

Here’s an extract from a recent interview by The Times with Sajid Javid, the new Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. 

“We’ve got a housing crisis. We’ve got no time for anyone who is just anti-development for the sake of it…If you are a NIMBY [not in my back yard please], the government is not going to be your friend. We are on the side of people who want more homes.”

I think we get the idea (!) and the sentiment expressed by Mr Javid is reflected by what is now a long list of supply side, pro-development initiatives including:

Such initiatives are of course not necessarily a bad thing provided they are well founded and based on the actual economic reality as opposed to knee-jerk reactions to unwarranted finger pointing as many people argue with regard to Land Banking.

On that note, I see we are in the midst of another enquiry into Land Banking – that is the reasons for the gap between permissions granted and number of homes built. The findings of this enquiry are planned to be revealed in time for the Spring statement although whether this now occurs we will have to see. There have been enquiries into the industry before but I wonder whether this time, it may lead to lasting change – a thought that seems to be echoed by Barratt Homes who have pre-empted the findings with their own report.

New report on land banking for Barratt Developments

Perhaps the announcements made after the review is when we will see what the new powers of Homes England are and what they can actually do.

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This post was written by Mike Nicholas

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