What The Decent Homes Standard Means for Housing Organisations Today

Shariq Kochhar

Discover what an updated standard on Decent Homes could mean for your organisation today.

One of the key themes discussed within the social housing green paper is what constitutes a safe and decent home. 

We know from customer conversations that it’s always on leader’s minds. But it hasn’t been updated since 2006.

With conversations in the community putting the green paper front and centre - particularly at Housing 2019 this year - we see an update coming. 

We believe ‘a new deal for social housing’ holds the key to the next update. A year after its release, it is as relevant today in the changes it proposes to the Decent Homes Standard. Experts hint the policy isn’t far away. 

Here’s what we expect to come.

We believe a stronger, more human standard is coming.

The Decent Homes Standard has not been reviewed since 2006. And the pertinent questions the green paper poses around strengthening it, to include private sector-like support, will undoubtedly require a lengthy legislative overhaul.

We know this isn’t far away. If the news is any indication, it is closer than you think. So let’s discuss it now.

The four areas that constitute the current Standard…

- freedom from hazards posing threat to health, safety

- reasonable state of repair, 

- reasonably modern facilities

- efficient thermal comfort

…might’ve been relevant when they were first written. You could also have 3 of the 4 and you’d be considered compliant.

First things first, we believe this ambiguity will be simplified to set a basic precedent - all social rented homes will have to meet a common standard, and will no longer be certified as meeting this standard with any key component missing (the case today).

Experts we’ve discussed this with also believe it will:

a) define the use of ‘reasonable’ as something more measurable and actionable so it’s clearly defined - like the KPIs making their way into housing operations

b) offer clear guidance on implementation of what ‘efficient’ thermal comfort should cover today  - as opposed to 2006. Clean growth is making its way into the larger housing strategy and the Decent Homes Standard should lead this change, in our opinion

c) revise the current section on working in accordance with tenants, which only occupies 4 little paragraphs, but is arguably the single most important thing to nail down

 

SPEAKING OF WHICH -

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It is likely to change the entire culture.

With an updated standard, landlords are likely to frequently host engagement events where operational commitments will be discussed transparently with tenants. We believe tenants will be involved - not merely consulted - on conditions affecting their health and safety, thus creating an empowerment culture.

The Decent Homes Standard will ideally scope out the extent to which digital inclusion has an impact on effective resident communication. It is likely to instil standards for more effective, timely communication about repairs and maintenance to tenants. Frankly, it is highly likely to add absolute compliance about such measures, because there aren’t enough external pressures at the moment to act as strong incentives.

We believe residents will gain access to readily available handbooks on health and safety, with information kept up to date. Compliance certificates will be published and maintained on the actual properties concerned. This way, accountability will always be on display, and it will be easier to challenge by third parties, such as tenant voice organisations, when necessary.

A healthy mix of transparency, clear channels and partnership working (where tenants comply with their own obligations eg. giving access for works) will go a long way in laying a foundation for effective reform. We envision this to work much like Building Bridges, a guide published by CIH on how the operating environment influences partnership working.

Put together with the support of Mark Perry, chief executive of VIVID, and John Bibby, CEO of ARCH, the guide showcases the profound pressure on local authorities and housing associations, and why effective joint working is crucial to make sure people in housing communities receive the support they need.

And likely to apply to everyone.

We believe that when an updated and effective Decent Homes Standard exists, it will apply not just to homes but extend onto the community itself. 

Social tenants live in inclusive communities. Their communities are an extension of their homes and we believe we are soon to see a greater focus on the housing estate environment. 

Similarly, when the green paper asks the question “Should new safety measures in the private rented sector also apply to social housing?” we would respond: yes, we believe so.

John Kiely, director of the housing and public sector for Savills, wrote a pithy, punchy piece on what version 2 of the new Decent Homes Standard could look like. He emphasised that there should be one overarching, common standard for all homes on safety.  He believes this would simplify and unify things as “housing associations (and increasingly some local authorities) now provide homes across many tenures.'' We couldn’t agree more. 

We also think that the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) should now be enforced in the social rented sector, as it doesn’t make sense for certain housing types and tenures to be exempt from a housing health system. 

If you concur, believe otherwise or have some thoughts, we’d love to hear your opinions. Alternatively: call us, get involved in the conversation. 

Finally, since we’re discussing private-sector-like support for social housing, we should highlight that there isn’t enough existing support in the sector for social organisations to manage their property portfolio in its entirety, nor is there a one-stop solution to effectively manage communication between housing teams and tenants. 

This means it can be rather challenging to identify ‘heat maps’, if you will, of repairs required, asset lifecycles and compliance-related issues for a full portfolio. Having full visibility of your housing stock could mean better planning and hence an actual strategy on planned and predictive maintenance - rather than simply reactive repairs. 

Reactive repair issues can not only pile up, cost more and drive down your operational health, they have no place in a post-Grenfell housing world, where we know the implications relating to health and safety are more pronounced than ever before. 

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Are You ‘Can Do’? We want to hear from you.

Are you fighting for better tenant services in your organisation?

Trying to find ways to balance cost and operations? Set a new health and safety benchmark for your housing community?

If so, we want to hear from you.

At Plentific, we’re showing housing providers that it really is possible to reduce costs, improve services and create happier tenants - without having to sacrifice on essential support in a time of cost pressures. It’s why some of the most progressive housing providers in the UK work closely with us to make their housing operations work better each day.

If you’d like to know more about what we do and how our single-platform solution is building a new independent standard for excellent housing operations, get in touch today.

PIONEER HEALTH AND SAFETY

Prepare your organisation for a new standard in Decent Homes

Book a meeting