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HCA chief seeks more private finance

Homes and Communities Agency chief executive Sir Bob Kerslake has cited encouraging more private finance into the housing sector as a major objective for the agency’s second year.

The HCA celebrated its first birthday on 1 December with bosses looking back on a year that saw £4.6 billion spent completing 53,843 new homes, starting a further 44,472 and reclaiming 327 hectares of brownfield land.

But the stakes have been upped for the next 12 months with a target of 55,625 new home completions, a further 48,315 starts and 340 hectares of brownfield land reclaimed.

Sir Bob believes the private sector will be key to achieving these targets, but said it was something the HCA would have to facilitate.

More than £1bn was attracted from the private sector over the past year, and the aim is to improve on that amount. He said: “The big objective must to be to keep the process of recovery going and do what the public sector can to maintain that and influence the market to make a difference as well.

“A key question is how we get finance in, because it remains uneven. All my discussions with the banks tell me it will be quite difficult still this year so innovation is key in this area.”

The HCA is in the process of developing new schemes such as its Private Rented Sector Initiative, which encourages private finance to build a professional rented sector.

Sir Bob added: “We will also be talking to partners about alternative routes to delivering new homes with less direct public investment.

“These might include using the planning system or reassessing the role of development gain.”

It is hoped contractors could also play a key role in helping the HCA with its aims.

More than 130 contractors and developers submitted pre-qualification questionnaires to join the HCA’s delivery partner panel to develop its sites. A total of 40 firms were shortlisted for the framework, which will exist for three years and be split into three regional clusters, each with six to 12 members.

Sir Bob said the panels would be announced before Christmas along with the first set of sites to be developed. Overall the HCA is responsible for £13bn of investment up to March 2011. Sir Bob dismissed

fears the HCA was under threat from a potential new government in the summer of 2010.

He said: “Everybody who works in the public sector faces the same problem – my feeling is that we

need to hold our nerve.

“The feeling overall is that we  have made an impact and played a positive role in responding to the downturn for all parts of the sector.

“I am quietly confident we will have a second birthday.”