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Mayor to take on £5bn HCA funds

London mayor Boris Johnson was set to gain a key hold over housing developments in the capital this week, in a plan to devolve decision-making on HCA cash.

Under the plan, London’s boroughs will be able to make more scheme-by-scheme decisions on housing plans, in agreement with the mayor and the London board of the HCA.

The framework is part of plans to transfer some of the HCA London powers to the Greater London Assembly, as part of plans to introduce key elements of the government’s localism plans.  The HCA’s budget for 2008/11 is £18billion, with £5bn for London.

Senior figures in the housing sector have urged the mayor to use the new powers to ensure that all boroughs of London ended up with social housing, rather than one or two.

The GLA, along with think tank London Councils, this week wrote to all 33 London boroughs asking for opinions on its Framework for Devolved Delivery.

The document outlines how authorities could draw up individual agreements with the mayor, allowing them to have more control over funding for specific housing projects in their boroughs.

Under the framework, a local authority would draw up a Devolved Delivery agreement with the mayor and the London board, which would set out a firm budget allocation for the three-year spending round and give the local authority the right to move cash between schemes.

To draw up an agreement, boroughs will have to agree funding priorities, main local projects and operational arrangements and with the London board.

The mayor’s housing priorities include building 50,000 affordable homes by 2012.

In response to the plans, National House-Building Council chief executive Imtiaz Farookhi said: “This mayor seems to be less prescriptive than the previous mayor but he needs to keep strategic control and the boroughs should become delivery agents.

“We want to avoid carrying on building socially rented housing where it already is and end up with all the social housing in one of two boroughs.”

A source at one major housebuilder also said that social housing provision was uneven: “You have some exemplary boroughs such as Wandsworth and Westminster that have a great track record of bringing forward housing and regeneration projects.

“But other boroughs don’t have that record. And with 25 per cent cuts in public sector spending, a lot of housing and regeneration professionals will lose their jobs, making it more problematic”.

Local authorities have until 1 October to comment on the framework or submit expressions of interest in the agreements.

The GLA, London Councils and the HCA will then hammer out details of exactly how the agreements will work, with the first ones in place for the start of the next investment round in April. Boroughs not participating will continue with their housing allocation under the current system.