The decent homes initiative has driven housing policy for the best part of a decade. It sparked multi-million pound refurbishment schemes, a wave of fresh stock transfers and the birth of arm’s-length management organisations.
Half-way in, the government’s target was looking over-ambitious after a number of transfer no votes. It’s now predicting 95 per cent will hit the deadline in 2010. But that still leaves some real problem areas.
Sure, billions have been invested and many homes improved and that’s a huge achievement. But it’s little consolation for tenants in those parts of the country where getting the investment together for decent homes has proved more challenging.
Take Waverley, for example, where the council is now urging its tenants to take to the streets to call for a fair deal. Waverley tenants have twice rejected stock transfer. Meanwhile, the authority is losing millions to the housing revenue account subsidy system– money it says would have been more than enough to bring its homes up to scratch.
For years, successive ministers have stuck to the line that there are enough investment options available. It’s true that the existing options have proved very successful – where tenants have been prepared to back them.
But if residents in places like Waverley and Camden don’t want a housing association or ALMO as their landlord, then they are effectively frozen out.
That means the decent homes debate has become one characterised by stubbornness and political dogma, rather than realism and a genuine desire to find a solution.
Now it’s time to leave that posturing behind, before the plight of a group of the tenants whose homes still need work falls off the priority list altogether.
A review of the council housing finance regime is underway. Let’s hope it provides a way forward so that some tenants don’t get left out in the cold when the deadline passes.