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HCA backed after funding decisions

Housebuilders have given the Homes and Communities Agency a vote of confidence after it approved funding for 105 schemes that “otherwise would have been mothballed”.

The HCA, which had its budget slashed by the government in July, announced final decisions on which projects it would fund last week.

The decision came the day after chief executive Sir Bob Kerslake announced he was leaving the organisation, which the government has pledged to retain but in a slimmed down form with its “functions delivered under local leadership”.

More than half of the 165 Kickstart and LANB schemes that were under review have now received funding - 44 of 74 Kickstart schemes will go ahead, as will 61 of 91 LANB projects. More than 4,800 homes will be built through Kickstart and more than 600 will be developed under LANB.

Sir Bob, who is leaving to become permanent secretary of the Department of Communities and Local Government on 1 November, will be replaced with an interim chief executive from its existing group of directors to lead the organisation in its smaller form.

He said: “I am pleased to be able to firm up the position with our partners. By taking a localist approach we’ve achieved much more than we would have done by acting in isolation.”

Galliford Try affordable homes director Stephen Teagle told CN the funding it had received through Kickstart round 1 and 2 had “allowed us to bring forward some major regeneration schemes that otherwise would have been mothballed and unable to proceed in the current market”.

Kickstart funding had played an important part in the firm maintaining momentum in its regeneration and affordable housing delivery, he said.

Bovis Homes group regeneration director Stephen Baines said the HCA had been a “key partner” in ensuring stalled sites got back to work.

“Its continued investment has been critical to meeting housing need and keeping jobs in local areas,” he said.

A spokesman for the Home Builders Federation told CN the HCA had demonstrated its benefit as an agency focused on delivery as opposed to policy.

He said that the Kickstart and HomeBuy Direct schemes had played a significant part in “the stabilisation after the downturn” and had contributed greatly to housebuilding figures.

“They’ve played a leading role. We were concerned projects would never get the go-ahead.

The fact a significant proportion got the go-ahead is welcome news.

“This shows the value of the HCA to be able to push the argument for housing. The benefits Kickstart brings are immediate in terms of employment, apprenticeships and local economies. For us, it makes perfect sense to provide public money to unlock private money.”

However, housebuilders that were signed up for projects originally slated for funding through Kickstart Round 2 lost out to varying degrees. Persimmon had eight schemes turned down and Berkeley Group Holdings five.

For individual schemes that did not secure funding, there are still further opportunities for HCA funding through other routes such as the National Affordable Housing Programme or Housing Market Renewal. The HCA said it was working with its regional teams to progress this.