The merger of the Housing Corporation and EP is good news for housebuilders
The ODPM is undertaking a review of the structure for the delivery of the government's housing and regeneration programme, which could result in English Partnerships and the Housing Corporation being merged into one supersized housing and regeneration body. The review, which will consider the best way to support the delivery of new homes and the creation of sustainable communities, is expected to report to ministers in July with decisions to be announced during the summer.
This could be a positive move for housebuilders, signalling the start of a streamlined approach to the delivery of private and affordable new homes. The priority for housebuilders is increased clarity and the simplification of the housing delivery process, to enable us to create good quality homes more quickly.
The industry is keen to respond to the demand for new homes in the UK and the South-east in particular, but our hands are being tied by an antiquated planning system that cannot cope with demand, and the painfully slow release of land for development.
It is also the case that changes to planning policy are rapidly eroding the traditional boundaries separating commercial from residential development and private market housing from affordable housing.
It stands to reason that affordable and private housing providers will have to work together
So it stands to reason that affordable housing providers and private sector housebuilders are increasingly going to have to work together on mixed-tenure schemes, just as housebuilders are working more closely with commercial developers on mixed-use schemes. Both government agencies need to think more strategically, increase transparency and have a much closer involvement with local authorities, all of which would be more easily achieved through a single agency with one common aim.
It would therefore seem a good idea to do away with - as least as much as is practicable - the barriers separating government agencies responsible for regeneration and affordable housing provision. However, both EP and the Housing Corporation have significant strengths and plenty of experience in their own fields, and this should not be underestimated. The key to their successful amalgamation will be to ensure that these attributes are not lost at the expense of delivering sustainable communities locally.
Although we as housebuilders will work with any new structure set up by the government, it is imperative that delivery of sites, adequate funding for the Housing Corporation, and a quicker town planning process evolve quickly. History tends to show progress is slow, but surely the chairman and chief executive of both organisations will want to see action. Kate Barker's review of the planning system for the government could also play a useful part in helping to deal with some of the planning system's ills. We do not want new initiatives stifling the production of more new homes and I am sure that the chancellor and the ODPM will want to do everything within their power to avoid this.
Philip Davies is chief executive of Linden Homes