Developers planning to build homes on publicly owned sites may be able to defer payment for the land under plans being developed to stimulate housebuilding during the market downturn.

It is understood that developers have been told privately by officials from regeneration agency English Partnerships (EP) that deferring payment is an option.

Robert Napier, chairman of EP, has already admitted that the agency may struggle to meet its housebuilding targets for 2008/09, and that he is considering actions such as splitting developments into smaller sites to reduce risk.

Sir Bob Kerslake, who will be chief executive of the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) when it is launched later this year, said his organisation was addressing the issue.

The HCA will be an amalgamation of English Partnerships and the Housing Corporation.

When asked whether he would consider accepting deferred payment from developers, Kerslake said: “The costs of procurement, the timing of the purchase of land – all these things affect the risk profile and total return of development. We’re thinking creatively about how we can take these on.”

Kerslake added that it was still impossible to gauge how “long, deep or wide” the downturn would be.