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Decent Homes programme falls short

More than 305,000 homes are set to fall below government standards as part of the Decent Homes programme according to a report by the National Audit Office last week.
The Department for Communities and Local Government had set out plans to make all social housing and private housing for vulnerable people ‘decent’ by 2010 but as of November 2009 only 92% of homes had been improved.

Last July housing minister John Healey announced that £150 million of the Decent Homes budget for 2010/2011 and £75 million allocated for private sector renewal would be re-directed towards funding the building of new affordable homes. Question marks now hang over whether the remaining homes will now be improved.

The report highlights the need to develop a plan for funding future repairs saying that a backlog will build up again and reduce the value for money that has been achieved so far. But current economic conditions mean that there will be a rise in vulnerable households across the private sector with private landlords possibly unable to fund their own repairs to retain their decency standard.

The NAO criticises the lack of clear estimation of total costs for the programme at the outset. Coupled with this, the CLG failed to gather reliable information on actual costs. This prevented the department being able to compare the estimates to actual costs and produce reasons for any variances and ascertain whether they had met their value for money standards.

The report adds that the government failed to ascertain whether the programme has achieved the required improvements at a reasonable cost. It suggests greater use needs to be made of information received from councils to identify good practices and cost effectiveness in refurbishments and apply this elsewhere.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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