Housing Secretary Sajid Javid has launched "Homes England", replacing the Homes and Community Agency, during a visit to a new housing development in Cambridge.

The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government wants the number of new homes built in England to rise from 217,000 to 300,000 per year by the mid 2020s.

Mr Javid said this ambition is a "big ask", but believes his department, in conjunction with developers, can achieve it.

Homes England will have more powers to free up land for development than the now-defunct HCA.

Mr Javid said, "What this agency will do...is help to assemble land, especially brownfield land, that can be developed into homes and work with those developers, help them with infrastructure and particularly focus on what I call the small and medium-size developers to help them build the homes that we need."

The Housing Secretary explained that the new agency will be better-able to support investment in infrastructure. Javid said to bring "more housing sites forward and to bring them forward more quickly it really helps if you can invest in the road and rail links and other types of infrastructure that you need.

"If you can do it upfront, so you can show the local community that that infrastructure will definitely be there, I think you will get a lot more interest and you can bring forward a lot more sites."

He continued: “Housing affordability I think is the biggest issue in housing in this country and there's far too many people, particularly younger families, that feel that owning or even renting a decent home is out of their reach.

In terms of shorter-term solutions, Mr Javid highlighted the Help to Buy scheme and the reduction of Stamp Duty.

However, some industry figures say the new agency's powers do not go far enough.

Alex Ely, founding partner of Mæ Architects, was quoted in Architects Journal as saying, “Some of the noises from the government show the government is acknowledging the seriousness of the housing issue.

“However, without significant funding and the recognition that the state has a big role in providing social housing, we are not going to get very far.”

Ely said the agency's £1.1bn land assembly fund would be better used to prevent the “stupid horse trading” of land among developers.

“Often,” said Ely, “housing land is delayed because the land is traded rather than developed. This stops delivery and pushes up prices.”

Peter Barber of Peter Barber Architects went further, saying, “The housing policy of the government should be to end Right to Buy, introduce rent caps and aiming to replicate the levels of housing provision following World War II.

“That is not what these people are talking about. They are talking about forging stronger links with house-builders – which is a problem, because these people are a menace. Housing is [is viewed as] a luxury, not a commodity.”

Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation, was more supportive: “It is clear there is growing momentum behind the government’s housing agenda and we are delighted with the continuing policy support for a multi-tenure approach to housing supply, creating great places and the remediation of land.”

Terrie Alafat, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, was quoted in lgcplus.com as saying: “The agency promises to bring together a greater range of strategic powers and resources, which combined with its expertise, will allow it to take new and innovative approaches which could make a real difference to get us building more homes at a crucial time.

“The key here is that the new homes are delivered by working closely with local partners to make sure we build the right homes, in the right places and that people can afford them.”

According to fullfact.org, 184,000 homes were completed in England 2016/17, a figure that rises to 217,000 including the number of properties that have been converted or changed from non-residential use (office, farm etc.) to residential use. The number of additional dwellings in England peaked in 1968, surpassing 350,000, and reaching 425,000 nationwide.