Homes England’s emphasis on being a housing delivery agency is expected to change to one involving a greater focus on regeneration.
The Times newspaper has reported Homes England’s chairman Peter Freeman, co-founder of developers Argent famous for the successful regeneration of King’s Cross, is to conduct the review.
The agency has been criticised for focussing on developing land in places where houses are expensive to buy. Its 2018 strategy set out that 50 per cent of its funding should go to the least affordable areas which are typically in the South East.
Criticism has also been levelled against the agency for its slowness in clearing land around York’s railway station for a major regeneration project to build up to 2,500 homes.
Nicholas Boys Smith, chair of a new government design body and author of Living with Beauty, noted there was room for improvement in how the agency operates.
“The Homes England land sale process fails to put quality first on every occasion and it still remains much easier to win a site based on financial offer than design quality. This very urgently needs to change to ensure that the state is not effectively subsidising poor quality and ugly development, with insufficient focus on placemaking,” he wrote in the report.
Homes England urged to work with the smaller developers
Smaller builders have also been critical in the past that the agency has focused mainly on working with larger developers in part due to the complicated land sale process.
Federation of Master Builders communications director, Jessica Levy said: “It needs to do more to encourage work with smaller developers such as those building developments of fewer than five homes.”
Intermediaries Hank Zarihs Associates said development finance lenders and other types of lenders wanted SME builders to get more support for developing on brownfield sites and any reforms making this easier would be welcomed.
The Times newspaper reported that calls for a change at Homes England have intensified since the departure of the agency’s chief executive Nick Walkley last month.