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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 November 2007, 11:49 GMT
New agency to drive home building
Housing development
The government wants three million new homes by 2020
Plans to create a new agency to ensure three million additional homes are built across England by 2020 have been announced in the Queen's Speech.

The new Homes and Communities Agency is to be created as part of the Housing and Regeneration Bill.

The agency will have the specific task of ensuring a greater supply of social and affordable private homes.

A separate Planning Reform Bill aims to speed up planning decisions, especially for major infrastructure projects.

Brownfield development

The Homes and Communities Agency will also have responsibility for improving the level of service that social tenants receive.

It's now up to other bodies like local authorities, developers, planners and housing associations to start delivering on the ground
Adam Sampson, Shelter chief executive

Its other duties will include making better use of surplus public sector land, maximising the potential for brownfield development and supervising investment in wider infrastructure improvements.

In addition, the agency will be put in charge of ensuring future housing developments are as environment-friendly as possible.

The government said that while one million more families had become homeowners over the past 10 years, challenges continued.

It said difficulties included first-time buyers' struggle to get on the housing ladder, while other families were making do in cramped accommodation.

"There is a dire shortage of homes throughout the country, so we welcome the creation of this new agency as the government's first step in delivering three million homes by 2020," said Adam Sampson, chief executive of housing charity Shelter.

"But although the government can legislate for change, it's now up to other bodies like local authorities, developers, planners and housing associations to start delivering on the ground."

Yet others said they would have also liked to see the government introduce measures to reduce the amount of empty houses in the UK, estimated to total 670,000.

Tim Dixon, professor of Real Estate at Oxford Brookes University, says this figure is equal to the size of a city such as Leeds.

Less planning delays

The Planning Reform Bill aims to reform and speed up the planning system, including the introduction of a single body to rule on major infrastructure projects, such as airport expansion.

This new agency will be called the Independent Infrastructure Planning Commission.

The government says it aims to ensure "more timely and predictable decisions on infrastructure projects which are key to economic growth, international competitiveness, tackling climate change, energy security and improving quality of life".

It says the changes will also make decision-making more transparent and improve opportunities for public engagement.

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