Tuesday 18 December 2012

Decent Homes for Decent people

Have you heard of the Decent Homes Programme? Until today neither had I, but it’s been in existence for a while now. Introduced in 2000 and overseen by the Department for Communities and Local Government, the programme aims to improve the condition of homes for social housing tenants in England. The cost to date stands at around £40bn, so I was naturally curious to know where the money went.

There are four principle requirements for a decent home.

1. It meets the current statutory minimum standard for housing - to be decent a dwelling should be free of  category 1 hazards  under The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (England) Regulations 2005. This includes the nasty stuff like risks from asbestos, lead and various other inarguable hazards.

2. It has reasonably modern facilities and services.

3. It is in a reasonable state of repair.

4. It provides a reasonable degree of thermal comfort.

I would challenge anybody to deny social tenants these fundamental and ‘reasonable’ requirements. Even a nasty, snarling, frothing, right-wing aberration like me can see that to provide anything less would be an affront to human dignity.  But where it starts to get contentious is in the interpretation of just what is reasonable.

How did I come by today’s enlightenment? I spoke to a programme manager for a contractor involved in the scheme. His company is tasked with bringing up to ‘decency’ some tens of thousands of homes. But their brief goes far beyond what you or I may consider merely decent. For instance, in search of thermal efficiency they are installing air and ground source heat pump systems at a cost of around £6k per house. Some homes have solar photovoltaic generators to further reduce the energy costs to the household. This is on top of thermal insulation, rewires, brand new fitted kitchens, new bathrooms and new windows as a matter of course.

Naturally one wants to see wise investment in public housing stock, especially in terms of on-going savings in maintenance and energy costs, but isn’t this taking the piss ever so slightly? Where is the help for the couple on average incomes who have bought their homes and invested every spare penny into making them just liveable? Hands up who wouldn't want lower energy bills for life? How many homeowners in negative equity would love a new kitchen, a new bathroom… or some heat this winter?

Well tough. You can only have that level of decency by right if you live in a council house. Sod you, striving Britain with your penny-pinching thrifty ways. You deserve all the misery you go through with your wondering if you’ll have a job to go to next week and your wondering if you’ll ever be able to afford to retire. You chose to make your own way in the world, contrary to the great Marxist plan, you can bloody well starve out there, damn you.

Well, why not a government scheme to improve the stock of social housing tenants. A Decent Citizen Programme, if you will. Only a decent citizen should be allowed access to a decent council house – I think that’s only fair. A decent citizen would have to meet several criteria:

1. Demonstrate a reasonable standard of behaviour in public as well as in private.

2. Have a reasonable attitude towards the state which generously subsidises their accommodation.

3. Make a reasonable contribution to maintaining a civilised and decent society.

4. Have the decency to recognise when they no longer need to rely on the state to house them and move out to give a chance to another decent household.

Comrade Crow - decent citizen?

 In other news, a series of rail strikes are planned over the Christmas period. Bob Crow lives in a council house; I wonder if he’d pass the Decent Citizen test?

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