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

6 Conclusion

215. In this inquiry we have examined the concept and definition of Decent Homes as well as the way in which the policy is being implemented and funded. We have made a number of criticisms and recommendations in terms of both definition, implementation and funding, but we would like to conclude by reiterating our support for the Decent Homes target itself.

216. We believe that any civilized society is to be judged on the standards of housing, education, and healthcare which it considers an acceptable minimum for all its citizens. The quality of housing is intricately linked to health and general well-being. Cold and damp dwellings with poor noise insulation, poor accessibility for elderly and disabled occupants, unsatisfactory security arrangements, and squalid communal areas necessarily affect the health and well-being of its occupants. We cannot expect that adults and children living in such conditions should think of themselves as valued citizens who have a stake in society.

217. Consequently, we believe there is an overwhelming case for having minimum standards specifying what constitutes a Decent Home, and for having targets aimed at improving housing standards continuously. It is, however, important that such standards are pitched at a level which is broadly in line with the average expectations of householders.

218. There is, of course, no denying the Minister for Housing, Keith Hill's assertion that financial resources are limited, and that the Decent Homes policy has to compete for funding with other worthy policies and objectives, both inside the ODPM and more broadly across Government Departments. However, the Committee was alarmed that Keith Hill, as well as representatives of the Housing Corporation failed to make a strong case in public for additional Treasury funding for achieving the Decent Homes target, not least in view of the fact that the 2004 Comprehensive Spending Review is currently well under way.

219. As we have outlined above, we believe there is uncertainty about the Government's ability to ensure achievement of the 2010 target without allocating additional funding to the task. Furthermore, although some of our recommendations concern policy formulation and administration alone unlikely to require major funding allocations, e.g. our recommendation that policies should be better integrated and coordinated, other recommendations will require additional Government funding, e.g. the creation of a 'Decent Homes Plus' target.

220. Therefore, our final, but vital recommendation is that the treasury commit additional funding to the Decent Homes policy sufficient to ensure that the current Decent Homes 2010 target be met, and that a subsequent 'Decent Homes Plus' target can also be met.

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