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HCA changes focus to regeneration

The Homes and Communities Agency is planning to focus on kick-starting stalled regeneration projects this year, particularly in the Midlands.

HCA chief executive Sir Bob Kerslake said stalled regeneration schemes had overtaken standalone housing delivery as his agency’s number one concern: “By the nature of regeneration projects, they are areas that tend to be more vulnerable to the recession and right now regeneration is proving very challenging.”

He singled out the Midlands as a region in need of attention. HCA data shows the West Midlands has been the region worst affected by a lack of regeneration work. Sir Bob said: “We want to be about homes and communities – regeneration is just as important to us.

“Housing was very adversely affected by the recession. We recognised early on we were in a difficult situation there and needed to act quickly, so we did.

“Our job is to recognise the potential regional imbalance. We are really a key to keeping schemes going all around the country.”

The HCA’s annual accounts, which were published earlier this week, show the agency delivered 53,843 new and affordable homes in the year to 31 March despite severely depressed financial and housing markets.

Other highlights include the reclamation of 327 ha of brownfield land and creation of 450,487 sq m of employment floor space.

The agency also successfully attracted £1 billion of private sector investment to help its programme of work.

The HCA’s net spending for the year was £4.3bn. About £2.6bn was spent through social housing grants in the national affordable housing programme.

More than £650 million was spent on the renewal of homes, via the housing market renewal scheme and the property and regeneration programme inherited from English Partnerships.

Sir Bob said: “This year and next will be equally challenging but we will continue to deliver against our targets, identify new funding streams and new ways of working, and maximise the impact of every pound of public money that we invest.”

As a result of the recession, the value of the agency’s development assets fell by £1.1bn, which resulted in an impairment charge of £542m, while proceeds from land sales fell from £333m to £51m.

The HCA’s cash in the bank at the end of the year totalled £40.6m, down nearly £122m on the previous year’s £162.3m. This was returned to the public purse along with a one-off return of £346m to the Treasury.

Despite being owed £581.8m at the beginning of the year, all major debtors bar one met their repayments.

The HCA took a £12.6m hit last November following a developer insolvency.