Delivery in review mix
The government's housing and regeneration review could create a new super agency to act as the first port of call for councils embarking on housing new build and refurbishment projects.
In a statement to Parliament secretary of state Ruth Kelly said she had delayed her verdict on the review so she could massively expand its scope. The Department for Communities and Local Government's ‘delivery functions' will now be put into the mix, she said.
These include neighbourhood renewal, homelessness, housing market renewal and the DCLG's decent homes division, which deals with arm's-length management organisations and private finance initiative projects.
DCLG officials have been ordered to look for ways to encourage more private sector developers in the delivery of affordable housing, according to the statement. They will also have to come up with a series of options for reforming the Housing Corporation and English Partnerships if a full blown merger doesn't prove cost effective.
Kelly has indicated that any reforms would have to chime with the government's drive to cede Whitehall control to local authorities.
It was ‘vital that we get our delivery arrangements absolutely right with clear, focused and accountable delivery chains', the statement said.
Kelly is keen for the review to result in local authorities being able to go straight to the government's agencies for funding, leaving Whitehall to concentrate on its strategic role, Inside Housing understands.
The idea of delivering large scale housing projects through the use of urban development agencies was also becoming less popular as the government sought to hand more control to local authorities.
Chris Leslie, director of think tank the New Local Government Network, said strong links between any new agency and local authorities were essential.
‘Otherwise you end up with a well financed and beautiful but closed organisation that goes into an area for a short space of time and tries to reinvent awareness and background information already held [by local authorities],' he said.
Leslie said the timing of the review would allow its proposals to be incorporated into the forthcoming local government white paper. ‘These structural issues should link into that local government approach,' he said.
Mark Lupton, policy advisor at the Chartered Institute of Housing, said the review of regulation presented a ‘genuine opportunity to create something new and different'.
‘The housing association world has changed, the market in which housing associations work has changed,' he said.
The Treasury was keen to see the private sector get more involved in affordable housing projects, he added. ‘There is clearly a Treasury driven agenda to use the private sector to cut costs.
‘I haven't seen any hard evidence that there is a real appetite there to move into this in a significant way,' he said.