Agency struggling to kickstart stalled schemes because of restrictions on what it can fund

Plans for the Homes and Communities Agency to intervene to rescue some of the country’s largest regeneration schemes are being hampered by a lack of flexibility over use of public money.

The HCA is trying to finalise deals with a number of housebuilders and housing associations to restart stalled schemes by taking a stake or funding infrastructure.

The HCA brings together the budgets of English Partnerships (EP), the Housing Corporation and central government housing funds. However there is only limited flexibility over how the agency’s £16bn of funds can be spent.

The kind of innovative funding ideas being considered can only come from the EP pot, one of the smaller funding streams, and one that is dependent on receipts from the sale of EP-owned land. Former Housing Corporation money, which makes up half the agency’s budget, cannot be spent on these type of interventions.

A source close to the discussions said: “They don’t appear to have agreed if they can transfer between budgets.

Surely this was supposed to be the whole benefit of the new agency?”

Bob Kerslake, the HCA’s chief executive, said the agency was “working with the communities department on how to use all possible flexibility” within the existing budgets.

“The funding we could have used for these types of interventions has been most hit by our lack of land receipts, so we’re looking at how we can address that,” he said.

Meanwhile a parliamentary committee has said the government should buy family homes that have been up for sale for more than a year.