10 September 2004
Regional housing boards set up in the past 18 months should be merged with planning boards, which are more than 40 years their senior, the government said this week.
The merger of the two boards, proposed earlier this year in the Treasury-sponsored Barker review of housing, is expected by September 2005.
It will leave England's regional assemblies in charge of planning and regional housing strategies. They will recommend levels of capital funding for councils and housing associations in their region.
But before any merger, each regional housing board must produce an updated strategy by next May, along with funding recommendations for 2006/08.
Although the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister accepted Kate Barker's recommendation on merged boards, it rejected her proposal for independent regional planning executives to offer advice on housing needs.
Instead, the newly merged boards will be able to seek advice from a new national unit, to be overseen by independent experts from the public and private sectors.
The ODPM's proposals are contained in a consultation paper, Housing and planning in the regions, published on September 8. Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said: 'This is a key part of our drive to provide more affordable homes where they are needed most, and tackle the blight of abandoned housing.'
David Butler, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, said: 'Giving responsibility for housing to regional assemblies will require new relationships to be developed with the housing profession if we are to deliver sustainable solutions.'