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OPINION - HOME IMPROVEMENT

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Imagine a large, sometimes dysfunctional, family living in a rambling, Victorian house. It has all sorts of extensi...
Imagine a large, sometimes dysfunctional, family living in a rambling, Victorian house. It has all sorts of extensions, parts of it are modernised, but in the main it is dilapidated, even dangerous.

Finally the powers that be, decide something must be done and a firm of national surveyors called AC Inc are sent in. They go through the history and condition of the house and put together a detailed schedule of works. In the spirit of helpfulness they also comment on the behaviour of the family.

They leave behind pictures of what a good house looks like and some books on building techniques. They say they will be back to check on progress.

The family is bewildered. The works are extensive and expensive. What are they to do? Along comes another national body, Gov Ltd. They are here to make sure the work gets done. They have a list of contractors from which the family can select. Some contractors will do painting, others brickwork, some interiors. While they all have the technical know how and are very clever, dilapidated houses are not their specialism and dealing with problem families is a novelty.

Gov Ltd instructs the family it must take action quickly or the house will be pulled down or the family evicted. But responsibility for the completion of the work lies with the family. They must come to an agreement among themselves, accept that the work must be done, decide on priorities, select the best contractors, raise the finance and make some tough decisions on what the house should look like in future. Some of the family might have to leave.

As you might imagine if the sequence of the work is wrong, money will be wasted. It is fairly predictable that even though initial agreement might be reached, the family will need support. There will be backsliding.

Luckily they have some skilled relatives who are in the building game, who specialise in dilapidated houses and who also have well-developed coaching skills. Some have lived in similar houses and have had troubles themselves in the past.

Just in time, the family decides that while it is nice of Gov Ltd to help select contractors, what they really need is an experienced counsellor who will advise on the physical works, act as a mediator to help with family issues and develop their capabilities. They realise that the building works are the easy part of the job. If they do not start pulling together the house will rapidly return to its former state.

Mel usher

Executive director

Improvement & Development Agency

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