The Homes and Communities Agency, the non-departmental public body that funds new affordable housing, is to be expanded and renamed Homes England, the chancellor announced in his 2017 Budget today.
Philip Hammond said the new body will bring together "money, expertise, and planning and compulsory purchase powers" and have "a clear remit to facilitate delivery of sufficient new homes" and improve affordability.
Treasury documents stated that Homes England will have a stronger ability to use investment and planning powers to intervene more actively to free up land for housebuilding. The agency will have access to a new £1.1bn Land Assembly Fund, which will enable it to "work alongside private developers to develop strategic sites, including new settlements and urban regeneration schemes".
Daniel Thornton, programme director at the Institute for Government, called on the new Homes England to be "more transparent about its targets and how it is performing against them".
He has previously criticised the Homes and Communities Agency for failing to provide information about the social housing that it regulates following a merger with the Tenant Services Authority.
Last week Nick Walkley, chief executive of the Homes and Communities Agency, warned housing associations to expect fresh scrutiny over housing supply, Inside Housing reported.
The rebrand was among a raft of policies announced to address the UK's housing crisis, which also included abolishing stamp duty on homes worth up to £300,000 for first-time buyers.
The tax break will also be available on the first £300,000 of homes worth up to £500,000 in high price areas such as London. It will reportedly cost the Treasury £670m by 2022-23.
“We send a message to the next generation that getting on the housing ladder is not just a dream of your parents’ past but a reality for your future," said Hammond in parliament today.
Following the announcement, the Office for Budget Responsibility said the measure is "expected to increase house prices" by 0.3% and has given it a "high" uncertainty rating.
Elsewhere in the speech, Hammond pledged to relax council borrowing rules, freeing up cash-strapped local authorities to build more homes.
He also revealed he would “give local authorities the power to charge a 100% council tax premium on empty properties.”
On the government's response to the Grenfell fire, he said there would be £28m to support survivors and extra cash for councils to spend on “essential fire safety work”.
Hammond also confirmed that the government would aim to build 300,000 new homes a year.
Previous flagship housing announcements that made headlines at the time remain undelivered, however, with David Cameron’s 2015 general election pledge to allow 1.3m housing association tenants to buy their homes still unrealised.
A year before that the government announced a ‘Starter Homes’ scheme, which promised 100,000 first-time buyers the opportunity to buy a new home at a 20% discount, but as yet not a single one has been built.