In a little over 18 months’ time, the Decent Homes legislation comes into force, with 95 per cent of all social housing organisations expected to be fully compliant. Yet despite Government targets being outlined as early as 2000, there are fears that many housing associations and councils have done little to ensure that their housing stock will meet the target.
The trend is worrying as failure to meet the Decent Homes standard could result in housing associations facing heavy fines, or in the most extreme instances, facing the possibility of takeover from other housing associations.
The Decent Homes objective is to bring social housing into a reasonable state of repair, to provide modern facilities and services, and offer a good degree of thermal comfort to residents. For some housing associations, this objective is manageable, particularly if the housing stock is relatively small and planning and execution took place at an early date. However, some housing associations and local authorities face a different proposition as they may have large numbers of old or low-quality properties, or properties they have inherited from recent acquisitions.
It is also important to remember that other targets have emerged since the Decent Homes directive was announced, many of which required a speedier resolution. Such targets have taken time and funds originally allocated for the Decent Homes standard. For others however, the lack of interim targets has allowed people to procrastinate, with the 10-year timescale removing any sense of urgency to meet the standard.
Fortunately there is still time for the majority of housing associations to make the grade, and this can only be achieved by taking a considered and critical view of their business, using a self-survey to audit what needs to be done.
Technology has a key role as it can dramatically improve progress towards the standard, and exploiting the benefits of a strong IT solution can elevate performance levels across the entire organisation.
Housing associations should therefore select a technology partner that will allow them to embed the appropriate processes into the IT applications, and leverage the performance framework and related data to manage day-to-day reporting. A partner with expertise in leading both complex housing transformation projects and advising on performance requirements will help departments deliver best practice procedures for the Decent Homes standard.
Housing associations and councils should also harness the consultancy skills of their chosen partner for additional guidance on how repairs and reporting can be managed together. They must work closely with their partners to understand and map their business processes and gain an understanding of how the applications will underpin their objectives in meeting the Decent Homes standard.
With a little more than 18 months to go, those involved in fulfilling the Decent Homes standard are obliged to act. There is still time to make a difference, starting with a considered and thorough self-assessment. Once this is done, the journey towards fulfilling the Decent Homes standard can begin.
Martyn Rees is operations director of IBS OpenSystems.