In 2000, the government made a commitment to bring all public sector homes up to a decent standard, establishing a 10 year target and an interim target to: "ensure that all social housing meets set standards of decency by 2010, by reducing the number of households living in social housing that does not meet these standards by a third between 2001 and 2004, with most of the improvement taking place in the most deprived local authority areas".
The Government has defined a Decent Home as: warm, weatherproof and having reasonably modern facilities.
A Decent Home must also meet the following criteria:
- The current statutory minimum standard for housing
- Be in reasonable state of repair
- Have reasonably modern facilities and services
- Provides a reasonable degree of thermal comfort
So, what can providers of social housing, Local Authorities, Housing Associations and Arms Length Management Organisations do to ensure their housing stock meet the Decent Homes Standard by 2010? They need to ensure all dwellings provide a reasonable degree of thermal comfort.
The Government states that dwellings need to have both efficient insulation and efficient heating. However, having fulfilled those two requirements, the dwelling needs to be adequately and appropriately ventilated, or problems will arise.
The Fitness Standard stated that dwellings (both houses and flats) needed to "be free from dampness prejudicial to the health of the occupants; have adequate provision for lighting, heating, ventilation". HHSRS, or the Housing Health & Safety Rating system, which has replaced the Fitness Standard as an element of the Decent Home Standard, states that the dwelling should be free of category 1 hazards.
Some of the category 1 hazards are:
- Damp and mould growth
- Excess cold
- Excess heat
The importance of compliance
Properties that do not meet the Decent Homes Standard will be defined as unfit under section 604 of the Housing Act 1985.