News

£610 m black hole may leave HCA broke for a year

28 May 2010

A £610 million funding gap means The Homes and Communities Agency has to review its Kickstart scheme and may be unable to fund residential schemes for a year, Building reported.

The deficit emerged because the Treasury told the HCA that £780m previously promised from other government departments to fund last year’s £1.5 billion Housing Pledge is now “not secure”.

Monday’s announcement by chancellor George Osborne of £170m of funding for social housing merely cuts this to £610m.

The HCA said this week it had put all funding decisions on hold until at least the emergency Budget on 22 June, as it wants to see what the Treasury will do about the deficit.

It will then review £263m of money already allocated to housebuilders to unlock stalled private sites under its Kickstart programme.

If the hole is not filled, the money will have to be made up from this year’s budget. The agency has a £6bn annual budget, but this is largely pre-committed, and two HCA sources said finding an extra £610 m could mean it had no money to spend until March 2011.

One source said: “It’s potentially a serious position, and would effectively mean no new allocations all year.”

The impact of a prolonged funding freeze could be huge, Building claimed, with the Home Builders Federation (HBF) this week estimating that the HCA has supported the construction and sale of 40 000 private homes over the past two years.

The review of Kickstart could be damaging for housebuilders such as Persimmon, Barratt and Redrow, which have provisional allocations of £27.5 m, £10.85 m and £9.85 m respectively.

The HBF described the news as “extremely disappointing”, and Graham Cherry, the chief executive of Countryside, which has three Kickstart schemes under review, said: “This means that projects that were going ahead will be put back on hold.”

The funding gap is in addition to £230m of cuts announced this week, including £100 m for new social housing, £50m for the housing market renewal pathfinder scheme and £50m from Kickstart.

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