A National Audit Office report has found that the condition of 90 per cent of the Service Families Accommodation in Britain is at the two highest of four standards. However a specially-conducted survey has however revealed that, while 52 per cent of Service families feel their Ministry of Defence accommodation is in a good condition, 31 per cent are dissatisfied with the condition of their property. The MOD is currently undertaking a programme to upgrade Service family accommodation to the highest condition. In the last two years it has upgraded some 1,700 properties and will continue upgrading an average of 800 per year.
The MOD has over 50,000 properties across the United Kingdom, providing housing for around 42,000 Service personnel and their families. At the current rate of upgrade, it would take some 20 years before all properties reached condition 1 (the highest), subject to future levels of funding and the future size of the estate. Many houses within Condition 2 are also at a good standard overall, though it is a broad band and other houses in it have serviceable but outdated kitchens and bathrooms.
Service personnel are required to be mobile, and each year there are over 20,000 family moves. Families are expected to look after their properties and, on the whole, were satisfied with the move out process, but less satisfied when moving in to a new property. Of the families the NAO surveyed, 43 per cent were unhappy with the state of the carpets on moving in, 38 per cent had complaints about the general state of the property and 35 per cent felt the property had not been cleaned to their satisfaction. In most cases, families had not seen the accommodation before moving in, and would have liked their personal family circumstances taken more into account when being allocated accommodation.
The MOD is responsible for all but the most minor maintenance tasks on property. A single contract for maintenance work was introduced for properties in England and Wales in 2006. 94 per cent of families we surveyed had used the repair service whilst in their property. Some of the initial problems with the service have been resolved, but many families who responded to the NAO survey were still dissatisfied with the repairs service, with 24 per cent saying their properties were poorly maintained.
The MOD’s provision of housing reflects better value for money than renting from the open market. Its current housing stock has however been acquired over many years and in many cases is in the wrong location to meet demand. There is also a shortage of properties for larger families. But the MOD also has 9,170 vacant properties, totalling 18 per cent of its housing stock, which are awaiting allocation to service personnel; awaiting maintenance, upgrade work or new carpets; of the wrong type/size/location; or awaiting disposal. The average annual cost of a vacant property is £4,200 excluding the cost of any maintenance work. The MOD is working hard to reduce the number of vacant properties to a target management margin of ten per cent.