Of course there will be setbacks. What effect, for example, will the recent failure of several proposed stock transfers have on funding? The government had expected about 240,000 properties to transfer every year for five years, releasing a steady, useful and budgeted stream of private money. But although the interim targets for 2004 may possibly be in jeopardy, 2010 should still be achievable providing, of course, contractors and clients alike can plan with a degree of predictability. Yes, funds intended for other areas of improvement will have to be redirected in the short term and yes, this enforced reprioritising may prove unpopular, but the impact of short-term disappointments can be reduced, even overcome.
So how are we making it work? One way is through the formation of strategic partnerships with clients. The first benefit of partnering is that it turns residents into informed participants, able to understand and appreciate the constraints and opportunities the government has placed in front of their landlord. If programmes must be reprioritised, let it be through mutual consent. Second, within a partnered environment all parties can work together to exploit the system's remaining flexibility. Third, partnering is predicated on continuous improvement and cost savings – essential for long-term best value. Finally, partnerships take a strategic view – highly desirable with a target date eight years away. Providers will find it harder to deliver the standard through short-term, ad hoc arrangements with a succession of contractors. A long-term relationship allows the contractor to plan and invest to deliver the quality and service required.
Furthermore, the introduction of social housing PFI has offered an additional means of delivering the standard by harnessing private sector finance and expertise. Part of our success in this area has undoubtedly been due to the incorporation of decent home targets in our proposals.
it’s a creditable ambition
Jeffrey Adams, Managing Director, United House Limited
Decent home standards are achievable and the prize of improved "social cohesion, well-being and self-dependence" should encourage us all to make it work.
Homes fit for heroes! Almost 100 years ago, Lloyd George coined a rousing slogan as a spur to improve homes for the deserving poor. Nowadays, the much more anodyne, even downbeat, "decent homes standards" is all we can muster as a rallying cry. We are faced with different, but sometimes equally severe problems of supply and management, but the political primacy of good housing has given way to education, health and economic development.
does it improve quality of life for residents
Ben Derbyshire, design director of HTA Architects
I don't want to be the one to criticise motherhood and apple pie, but I do argue for an intelligent and, where appropriate, inspired approach to providing people with good places to live. And I would argue for real caution where there is a risk of the blanket application of bureaucratic initiatives to mass housing. Much of the stock that the initiative is intended to improve was itself the product of mass housing solutions, sometimes unthinkingly applied. Now neglect and long-term deterioration adds to the problems of buildings originally conceived in a spirit that was, at best, utilitarian.
I would like to urge sensitivity in the application of decent homes standards, and in particular offer the following pointers to delivery: