Housing

What is a Decent Home?

Introduction

Decent homes are important for the health and well-being of those living in them. Poor housing helps an area to get a bad reputation. That makes it an unpopular place to live, which in turn may lead to the breakdown of communities.

In short decent homes are a key element of any thriving, sustainable community.

In order to be decent a home should be warm, weatherproof and have reasonably modern facilities.

The Government believes that everyone should have the opportunity to have a decent home. It is aiming to make all council and housing association housing decent and also wants to improve conditions for vulnerable households in privately owned housing, particularly those with children.

In 1997 there were 2.2 million houses owned by local authorities and housing associations that did not meet the decent homes standard. Local authorities had a £19 bn backlog of repairs and improvements.

How is the Government helping?

All councils and housing associations have been challenged by the Government to meet the decent homes standard. Many councils will meet the challenge using existing resources (which are substantially higher per property than in 1997) and retaining both ownership and management of their stock.

For those that need extra funding to meet the required standard, the Government outlined three options which aim to deliver improved performance and services ensuring the extra money is spent cost effectively.

The three options are:

Option 1: Setting up an Arm's Length Management Organisation (ALMO)

An ALMO is a company created by the council to manage its homes and make them decent. Although the council still owns the homes it is free to focus on more strategic housing functions. If the Housing Inspectorate rates the ALMO as 'good' or 'excellent' the Government makes extra money available in order to make the homes decent.

Option 2: Using Private Finance Initiative (PFI) to encourage extra private sector investment

PFI enables the Government to provide financial support for partnerships between the public and private sectors. Typically, PFI contracts last for thirty years. Although the council still owns the homes, in most cases, the private sector partner will provide the management services.

Option 3: Transferring all or some of the stock to a Registered Social Landlord (RSL)

RSLs or Housing Associations can borrow money from banks and building societies in order to make the transferred houses decent. The council is free to focus on more strategic housing functions.

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