Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Fifth Report

1 Introduction

A Decent Home for all?

1. The Decent Homes standard first saw the light of day in April 2000 as part of the Housing Green Paper.[1] The standard was subsequently adopted as a PSA target (Public Service Agreement) for all social housing[2] and for parts of the private housing market in England.

2. According to the standard, a Decent Home should, as a minimum, meet all of the following four criteria:

a)  It must meet the current minimum standard for Housing;

b)  It must be in a 'reasonable' state of repair;

c)  It must have reasonably modern facilities and services;

d)  It must have a 'reasonable' degree of thermal comfort.

The target

3. Following the 2000 Spending Review, the Decent Homes standard became the basis of a PSA Target (Public Service Agreement), aimed at bringing all social housing into compliance with the standard by 2010. An interim target was also set, aimed at reducing the number of non-Decent Homes in the social sector by one third by April 2004.

4. In 2002, the Government announced that the target would be extended to cover privately owned homes (whether rented or owner-occupied) where these are occupied by vulnerable families.[3] The target is for 70% of vulnerable households living in the private housing sector (owner-occupied or rented) to have a Decent Home by 2010.

5. The PSA target in its current form reads:

"by 2010, to bring all social housing into decent condition, with most of the improvement taking place in deprived areas, and increase the proportion of private housing in decent condition occupied by vulnerable groups."[4]

6. The Committee welcomes the policy of setting a minimum standard for a Decent Home.

The baseline

7. Data from the 2001 English House Condition Survey was used to establish a baseline of non-Decent Homes in different sectors of the market. Some seven million out of a total of 21.1 million homes in England failed the Decent Homes standard in 2001.[5] As illustrated by Figure 1, a considerable majority of non-Decent Homes are owner-occupied (4.3m). However, since there are nearly 15 million owner-occupied homes in England (70% of all homes) the proportion of non-Decent owner-occupied homes is relatively low at 29%. Figure 1: Homes failing the Decent Homes standard in England, 2001

Source: English House Condition Survey 2001, Table A3.7

8. As can be seen from Table 1 below, privately rented dwellings are more likely to be non-Decent than any other type of dwelling. In 2001, about half of all privately rented homes (49%) were deemed non-Decent.[6]

9. In the social sector, a total of about 1.6 million homes failed the standard,[7] with approximately 1.2 million homes owned by Local Authorities (43%), and 380,000 homes owned by RSLs (29%).[8]

Table 1: Homes failing the Decent Homes Standard by tenure
Number of homes

Percentage non-Decent in tenure category
Owner occupied
Privately rented
Local Authority stock
Registered Social Landlord (RSL) stock

Source: English House Condition Survey 2001, Table A3.7

The terms of this inquiry

10. With the April 2004 milestone in terms of the PSA target for social housing upon us, it is an appropriate time to take stock and evaluate progress towards the target as well as its parameters and processes. There is now sufficient experience on the ground to assess the problems as well as the benefits of the target. There is however, little time to address problems or avoid unintended consequences. The terms of reference that we set ourselves for the inquiry were to evaluate:

"how this target is to be achieved, looking in particular at:

1.  The definition of 'decent';

2.  The scale of the problem;

3.  The various mechanisms for funding and delivery - stock transfer, PFI, Arm's Length Management Organisations, and Council housing;

4.  The implications of the PSA Plus Review undertaken in 2003 and the recent studies by the National Audit Office and Audit Commission;

5.  The role of tenant choice; and

6.  The link between the Decent Homes target and other parts of the Government's Sustainable Communities agenda.

11. The Committee received 67 memoranda from a very wide range of stakeholders. We held four oral evidence sessions, taking oral evidence from 23 different groups and organisations as well as the Minister for Housing and officials from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. We are very grateful to our specialist advisers, Peter Chapman and John Bryson. The Committee was also supported throughout the inquiry by staff at the Scrutiny Unit. The Committee wishes to thank all those who gave evidence to the Decent Homes inquiry, both orally and in writing.

1   ODPM: Quality and Choice: A Decent Home for All: The Housing Green Paper; April 2000 Back

2   Homes owned either by local authorities or Registered Social Landlords (RSLs). Back

3   'Vulnerable families' are defined as being in receipt of any one of a specified range of means-tested benefits or tax-credits. Back

4   ODPM: Decent Homes Target Implementation Plan, 2003;  Back

5   ODPM: English House Condition Survey 2001: Building the Picture; July 2003; para 3.2. Back

6   ODPM: English House Condition Survey 2001: Building the Picture; July 2003; para. 3.14. Back

7   There is a degree of uncertainty about the accuracy of this figure - see discussion on page 29. Back

8   ODPM: English House Condition Survey 2001: Supporting Tables: Table A3.7. Back

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