The Asset Management Network Blog: A future decent homes standard

Mike Victory-Rowe, Lead Associate for The Asset Management Network, looks at the government's call to revise and renew the Decent Homes Standard, as set out in the Social Housing Green Paper.

Ensuring homes meet the decent homes standard has been part of the day job since the government set out a target in 2000 that it would "ensure that all social housing meets set standards of decency by 2010”. The Social Housing Green Paper ‘A New Deal for Social Housing’, published by the government in August 2018, proposes a fairer deal for social housing residents set out in five principles, including that we ensure safe and decent homes. So what does this mean for the decent homes standard as we know it?

Since 2010 clear progress has been made to improve the standards of decency across all homes and the English Housing Survey 2016-17, published in January 2018, shows that the social housing sector has consistently had the lowest level of non-decent homes across the different tenure types (13% in 2016).

Asset management graph

[Source: English Housing Survey: Headline Report 2016-17, Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, January 2018, page 29]

However, the government asserts in the Green Paper that, “as well as being safe, all homes should be provided and maintained to a decent standard. We want to use this Green Paper to consider a review of the standard that we set for social homes.”

It adds that, “the Decent Homes Standard has not been revised since 2006, so we believe it should be reviewed to consider whether it is demanding enough and delivers the right standards for social housing alongside other tenures. The standard could also be updated to reflect government’s current and forthcoming priorities.”

In this review the government wants to explore whether the adoption of other standards would allow the bar for decent homes to be raised for social housing in the future, including:

  • Applying the outcome of the government’s consultation on ‘The Clean Growth Strategy’, looking at whether the energy performance of social homes should be upgraded to Energy Performance Certificate Band C by 2030 where practical, cost effective and affordable;
  • Considering whether safety measures in the private rented sector should also apply to social housing – including the recent announcement that there will be a mandatory requirement on landlords in the private rented sector to ensure electrical installations in their property are inspected every five years.

The application of either of these standards would require social landlords to understand the current performance of their assets, using good data, business intelligence and robust appraisal to fully understand the impact on their asset management strategy, funding and future investment plans.

The English Housing Survey 2016-17 found that social stock had an average SAP rating of 67, higher than private sector stock which had an average SAP rating of 61. The social sector was more energy efficient than the private sector, in part due to wider use of wall insulation, but moving properties to a band C by 2030 would require a considerable step up. For example:

  • There is high use in the sector of condensing boilers, increasing from just 2% of all homes in 2001 to 63% in 2016, but less than 0.5% of homes have heat pumps for space and water heating, so there is huge capacity for further innovation.
  • The number of social housing properties with photovoltaic panels was only 144,000 in 2016 – that’s less than 4% of total stock.

We have been reminded by Grenfell how essential it is that we listen to our residents and ensure that we provide safe and decent homes. This means it can only be right that we continue to challenge current standards and our thinking to ensure that we are doing the right thing by our residents now and in the future. But any changes to the Decent Homes Standard could have significant consequences for the sector’s asset management and investment strategies and the impact on residents, assets and housing providers as a whole will need to be carefully assessed.  

The consultation for the Green Paper ends on Tuesday 6 November 2018, so you have just under a month to make your views known.

By Mike Victory-Rowe, Asset Management Network Lead Associate