A NEW AGENCY, Communities England, will take over the work of the Housing Corporation, English Partnerships and many government housing functions, communities secretary Ruth Kelly announced this morning.
The widely-trailed decision follows a review launched in April 2013 by the Department of Communities and Local Government aimed at devising a delivery mechanism to make the best use of public and private investment. This was extended in July to cover the department’s own housing functions. Its work on decent homes, housing market renewal, housing PFI and housing growth areas will transfer to the new agency.
The new agency will clearly be of crucial importance across a whole range of housing issues. It is not immediately clear what the new set-up will be, although a strong pointer is that the team planning it will be led by English Partnerships chair Baroness Ford. She said:
‘My board and senior colleagues are delighted by the outcome of the housing and regeneration review. We have consistently supported the creation of a single, new agency and a streamlined supply chain and we look forward to playing our part in creating that new agency.’
Does that mean housing will play second fiddle to regneration? Not according to Housing Corporation chair Peter Dixon:
‘The new agency will bring the strengths of the Housing Corporation, English Partnerships and the Department together to form a single agency dedicated to creating places that people choose to live and stay in. We look forward to working with new colleagues, building on past successes to create a body which can deliver even more to communities and the country as a whole.’
Separate reviews of the regulation of affordable housing by Martin Cave and of social housing by John Hills are due to report soon.
The creation of Communities England was welcomed by the Chartered Institute of Housing, which had called for a single agency in its submission to the review. and Local Government Association.
The Local Government Association took the chance to make a pointed call for more devolution. Councils, as we all know, are meant to play a strategic role, but its chairman Sandy Bruce-Lockhart said:
‘The government must make sure that Communities England operates at a genuinely national strategic level, giving council-led local partnerships the power to deliver real regeneration and growth in our communities.’