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Homes agency to buy private land

The new Homes and Communities Agency plans to acquire land from stricken house builders in a bid to build new developments and boost the stagnant housing market.

The HCA, which will be a single, national housing and regeneration agency for England, formally launches on 1 December and has an annual investment budget of over £5 billion.

The HCA will look to make land available for development, unlocking surplus supplies of public sector land and targeting acquisitions of private sector land banks.

New HCA chairman Robert Napier said the agency would be targeting the likes of Taylor Wimpey’s UK land bank to acquire development sites.

Taylor Wimpey is yet to renegotiate its debt facility with its banks and is currently over £1.9 billion in the red.

The house builder has been forced to write down the value of its land bank by £765 million, including nearly £600 million of UK write downs.

All the other major house builders have also been forced to write millions of pounds off their land banks.

Ahead of the launch, the new HCA bosses said they would do all they could to change the way that housing is supplied.

The HCA said it would encourage the development of housing schemes that mixed affordable rented housing with homes at intermediate rents to get house building moving without relying on house sales.

Chief executive designate Sir Bob Kerslake said: “It is really fundamental to say that notwithstanding the current market conditions the underlying imbalance between supply and demand still remains.

“That problem will become more acute as time goes on.”

And he said the agency wanted to be a “voice of delivery”, which helped influence Government policy.

He added: “Clearly it is the Government’s role to make decisions on policies.

“We can and should be a powerful voice about the delivery implications of different Government options. We will have a strong policy capacity in the agency.”

The HCA will join up the delivery of housing and regeneration, bringing together the functions of English Partnerships, the investment functions of the Housing Corporation, the Academy for Sustainable Communities and key housing and regeneration programmes delivered by Communities and Local Government.

These will include Growth Areas, Thames Gateway delivery, Housing Market Renewal, Decent Homes, Mixed Communities, the Places of Change Programme and Gypsy and Traveller Sites Grant.

This integrated approach will enable the HCA to work efficiently with local authorities and other partners on the housing and regeneration needs of individual areas, providing practical support as well as professional expertise.