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The Decent Homes Programme

It is estimated that over a million social homes have been improved by the Department for Communities and Local Government’s Decent Homes Programme, which aims to improve the condition of homes for social housing tenants. The Department has also provided funding to improve conditions for vulnerable households in private sector accommodation. But the National Audit Office has warned that there are weaknesses in the information collected by the Department which has reduced its assurance that value for money was being achieved.

A National Audit Office report to Parliament has found that the Government’s Programme has made progress and that, as of April 2009, 86 per cent of homes in the social sector were classed as decent. The Programme has also brought wider benefits such as improved housing management, tenant involvement and employment opportunities.

There is however much left still to do. The original target was that all social sector homes would be decent by 2010, but by November 2009 the Department was estimating that approximately 92 per cent of social housing would meet the standard by 2010, leaving 305,000 properties ‘non-decent’. 100 per cent decency would not be achieved until 2018-19.

The National Audit Office has concluded that there are weaknesses in the information collected by the Department, warning that information gaps create a risk to value for money. Weaknesses in the Department’s information are illustrated by uncertainties over the total cost of the Programme to itself or to the sector and the number of properties improved.

The Department is committed to funding the Programme and is currently reviewing the funding mechanism. But, unless a plan is put in place to appropriately fund housing repairs, there remains a risk that a backlog will again build up, reducing the value for money of what has been achieved so far.

"The Programme to make social sector housing and private sector housing for vulnerable people decent has made progress, and the families living in those properties will be enjoying the benefits. However, there are risks to both the Programme’s completion and what has been achieved so far if a reliable funding mechanism is not put in place to deliver the remainder of the Programme and to maintain homes to a decent standard. Hundreds of thousands of families are still living in properties which are not warm, weather tight, or in a reasonable state of repair. The Department’s efforts have been undermined by weaknesses in the information it holds.   There are important lessons here on the benefits of having clear information on Programmes when delivery is devolved to a local level."

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office

Notes for Editors

  • The Decent Homes Standard aims to make homes warm, wind and weather tight and with reasonably modern facilities. The Standard is a minimum threshold below which no property should fall.
  • Press notices and reports are available from the date of publication on the NAO website, which is at Hard copies can be obtained from The Stationery Office on 0845 702 3474.
  • The Comptroller and Auditor General, Amyas Morse, is the head of the National Audit Office which employs some 900 staff. He and the NAO are totally independent of Government. He certifies the accounts of all Government departments and a wide range of other public sector bodies; and he has statutory authority to report to Parliament on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which departments and other bodies have used their resources.

PN: 04/10