Pathfinders face scrutiny

The success of housing market renewal pathfinders is being called into question today by the parliamentary spending watchdog.

A National Audit Office (NAO) investigation says it is unclear how far improvements in low-demand areas are a result of the pathfinders' intervention.

While acknowledging that low demand is "less severe" after five years of the programme and £2.2 billion committed in public spending, the NAO says: "Intervention has improved housing conditions for some but heightened stress for others."

It adds: "There is no guarantee that intervening in the housing market in this way will tackle the causes rather than the symptoms of the problems experienced in these neighbourhoods."

Pathfinders made early interventions with "limited intelligence" on housing markets or the heritage of local homes, the NAO said. It claimed that delivery was hampered by pathfinders' perception that the DCLG "has not been committed over the long term".

The DCLG's oversight of market renewal "provides limited assurance on value for money", the NAO said. The department must also offer "greater certainty and clarity" on the programme's future aims and governance to "justify additional risk and community stress".

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