In 2000 the government set itself a public service agreement target to make sure all social housing met minimum standards of decency by 2010.
A Decent Homes standard was set out the following year. At the time around 2.1 million properties in the social housing sector did not meet the requirements.
The standard states that to be defined as decent a home must meet the statutory minimum requirements for housing, be in a reasonable state of repair, have decent facilities and services – such as kitchens and bathrooms, and provide acceptable thermal comfort for occupants.
The government suggested a range of measures local authorities could take to access the finance needed to ensure their properties met the standard, as well as using their own resources.
They could set up an arm’s length management organisation to run their properties for them. The homes would remain under council ownership, but the ALMO would be eligible for decent homes funding if it met agreed performance ratings.
They could get the private sector involved through private finance initiative deals where businesses could expect some form of payback in return for getting involved in public housing deals.
Or they could transfer their housing stock to a registered social landlord, such as a housing association. As with ALMOs, housing associations could then apply for additional decent homes funding.
In its latest annual report Communities and Local Government states £23 billion was invested in decent homes up to April 2006. A further £3.4 billion investment is planned over three years, as well as a potential £1.9 billion through private finance credits.
In addition CLG states that ALMOs, PFI deals, and stock transfers to RSLs attracted £10.3 billion of private investment between 1997 and 2007.
The result of all this cash has been improvements, but below the levels hoped for by the government. It wanted to see a reduction of between 45 and 50 per cent on the 2001 baseline by April 2006, but only achieved 42 per cent.
It is now aiming for 95 per cent success by 2010, with agreements in place to secure the remaining improvements in subsequent years. It has also added a target to increase the proportion of private sector homes occupied by vulnerable groups that meet the standard, which is on track.