We recognise the difficulties the housing market as a whole is currently experiencing and that is why we are committed to taking action. In May, July, September and at pre-Budget report last year we announced measures to tackle the downturn in the housing market. We are responding to the short-term market conditions by introducing measures to provide extra help for first time buyers, homeowners facing difficulties, and keeping housing supply, especially social housing supply, as high as possible. We are bringing forward from 2010-11 £550 million to provide around 7,500 social rented homes 18 months earlier than they would otherwise have been delivered.
The new Homes and Communities Agency, which was established on 1 December 2008, is the Government’s key delivery partner in relation to housing and regeneration. It has the ability to acquire land in support of its statutory objects and some of that land will be used for affordable housing. In addition, the HCA is responsible for the management of the programme for the delivery of more and better homes on surplus public sector land, with a target of 200,000 homes by 2016, of which the aspiration is that up to 50 per cent. of homes delivered will be affordable homes. In the current market, we are, however, keeping all options under constant review and the HCA is actively engaged in discussions with the industry.
The first bids from local authorities for social housing grant from the Homes and Communities Agency will be submitted after we make the necessary changes to the revenue and capital rules described in the previous answer. We issued a consultation on these changes on 21 January. However, seven arm's length management organisations and other local authority wholly-owned special purpose vehicles have bid for grant, of which six have been successful and the other is awaiting assessment. Social homes owned by local authority vehicles of this nature are not subject to the revenue and capital rules which currently apply to council houses owned by the local authority itself.