CaCHE Research Projects

CaCHE Research Projects

International evidence review: policies to improve housing affordability at all spatial scales

Team: Geoff Meen (Co-I) and Chris Foye (KE)

Summary: Affordability is one of the biggest housing problems facing many households today in the UK and internationally. In the UK, in 2016, average house prices were 7.7 times full-time earnings, a level that many consider unsustainable. However, price to earnings ratios are misleading and, in fact, the majority of households in the UK have modest housing costs with the main exceptions of those on lower incomes and younger households. Affordability is largely a question of distribution, not captured in averages. The first objective of this project is therefore to evaluate different measures of affordability. Broadly, policies to improve affordability attempt either to increase supply or reduce “over-consumption” by existing households. In practice, in the UK and internationally, most attention has been paid to the former, although attention is now also being paid to the latter; the second objective is to examine which policies are likely to be the most effective – particularly for the two target groups.

Starts: October 2017

Understanding reconfigured aspirations, expectations and choice

Team: John Flint (Co-I), David Robinson (Co-I), Jenny Preece (RA) and Gareth Young (KE)

Summary: This project explores how perceptions and aspirations are changing in response to a radically and rapidly changing housing systems. In doing so, it aims to look beyond simple understandings of housing tenure, helping to recognise the ways in which different tenures have changed over time in relation to quality, security, affordability and control.

The project aims to: develop a robust international evidence base on reconfigured aspirations, expectations and choices; understand the trade-offs between different dwelling characteristics being made by households that inform shifting perceptions; critically analyse whether tenure represents a valid and appropriate lens through which to view housing aspirations and to focus policy; and engage with non-academic stakeholders about how housing policy and practice should respond to the findings.

Starts: October 2017

Evidencing the impact of welfare reform on social housing

Team: Kesia Reeve (Co-I), Paul Hickman (Co-I), Gareth Young (KE)

Summary: This project addresses one of the biggest issues in housing today – welfare reforms. Welfare reforms appear to be having a transformational effect on the housing association sector. This study is timely as it: provides a more rounded and complete understanding of the challenges facing housing associations that already exists; highlights likely future developments with the sector; and, identifies areas where further research is needed. We therefore review the existing evidence base in terms of the impact of welfare reforms on housing associations. The project also includes primary research comprising in-depth interviews with national stakeholder organisations as well as senior executives from a range of housing association types.

Starts: October 2017

Review of housing design quality of new supply at neighbourhood level

Team: Flora Samuel (Co-I), Tom Kenny (Co-I), Bilge Serin (RA) and Chris Foye (KE)

Summary: The aim of this project is to: review what is known about design value from an interdisciplinary perspective; develop a database of design guidance; and use targeted interviews to understand its usage across policy and industry. The outcome will be a series of recommendations on research needed on design value and the best format for its presentation.

Starts: December 2017

Monitoring changes in the UK private rented sector

Team: Ken Gibb (Co-I), Nick Bailey (Co-I), Mark Livingston (Co-I), and Gareth James (KE) 

Summary: The project investigates the potential for big data to dramatically increase the evidence base for monitoring and assessing how local markets are operating. Working with major letting databases with UK coverage, the project critically assesses the scope for developing such a database and attempts to establish key indicators and to run them for specific contrasting local markets and sub-markets. This will then be assessed for usefulness by a range of potential users. The project involves an international evidence review of what we know about the private rented sector, secondary analysis of the sector in Scotland, and subsequent indicator analysis by users, planners and policy communities. The project also builds on existing data science work by the Urban Big Data Centre.

Starts: January 2018

Review of housing land and speculative developer product selection

Team: David Adams (Co-I), Sarah Payne (Co-I), Bilge Serin (RA), and Gareth James (KE)

Summary: This project evaluates how far the land and speculative development sector is meeting demand and need in the housing market. To this end, it seeks to establish a comprehensive knowledge and evidence base on how the land and housing supply system currently operates, including the limitations of its operation. We evaluate whether, and to what extent, the industry is able to meet new demand and we reflect on the effectiveness of different policy solutions to land and housing supply problems.

Starts: January 2018

International evidence review: economic impacts and incidence of housing taxation

Team: Jeff Matsu (Co-I), Barry Naisbitt (Co-I) and Chris Foye (KE)

Summary: Housing taxation varies considerably across OECD countries in terms of key concepts such as tax neutrality, tenure neutrality and equity (horizontal and vertical equity). In the UK, there are transactions taxes like stamp duty, recurring taxes like council tax, investment taxes like capital gains tax, and wider taxes such as inheritance tax. The UK does not have a land value tax but other states and countries do. The purpose of this project is to review the different forms of taxation in terms of their effects on economic efficiency, house prices and wealth/income distribution. The goal is to assess the experience of other countries to identify what may be replicable in the UK.

Starts: January 2018

Measuring social housing investment impacts on residents

Team: Ken Gibb (Co-I), Chris Dibben (Co-I), Gareth James (KE), and ADRC.

Summary: This project first examines a different and possible complementary way to answering questions about the outcomes associated with spatially-targeted social housing investments, using novel techniques and new data. Second, the project critically assesses the feasibility of such an approach and will suggest ways to cost-effectively add value to evaluations through this route. From the Administrative Data Research Centre Scotland perspective, the project offers follow-on funding potential if it turns out to have momentum.

Starts: January 2018

Wellbeing as a tool for evaluating housing outcomes and housing policy impacts

Team: David Clapham (Co-I) and Chris Foye (RA & KE)

Summary: The project attempts to address the key question of how to measure the impact of housing policies and interventions. It starts by reviewing the evaluative frameworks used by different housing organisations with a view to understanding their appeal and examining their appropriateness. For example, some housing associations use wellbeing indicators to evaluate the social return on investment, while other local authorities focus only on objective measures such as rates of overcrowding. Why the difference, and is one more ethically appropriate than the other? The project then considers how the evaluative framework used by housing organisations can be improved. As a starting point, we consider a framework which integrates measures of wellbeing with Amartya Sen’s capabilities approach. The end goal is to develop an evaluative framework which is both philosophically coherent and user-friendly.

Starts: February 2018


Good practice review in international and UK lesson sharing/learning and policy transfer

Team: Alex Marsh (Co-I), Ken Gibb (Co-I), Adriana Mihaela Soaita (RA) and Gareth Young (KE)

Summary: This project will engage closely with the policy analysis literature on policy transfer, mobility and translation both within devolved/federal structures and cross-nationally. The focus will be on learning cross-nationally rather than temporally (i.e. narrower than the overall policy transfer debate: policy transfer can be interpreted as transferring lessons across time, rather than space). Many of these ideas have yet to be applied rigorously to housing studies, including comparative housing research. The project will illustrate these ideas through case studies of urban housing and planning policy mobility and exemplars of policy divergence and learning across the four UK nations (e.g. homelessness, the right to buy, rental market regulation).

Starts: February 2018

Impact of being unable to become home owners – generation rent

Team: Kim McKee (Co-I), Adriana Mihaela Soaita (RA) and Gareth Young (KE)

Summary: While policy has acknowledged the housing and demographic shifts affecting young people, there has been a varied response by governments towards mitigating the housing insecurity young people can experience. Through qualitative investigation of the emotional impact of frustrated housing aspirations this exemplar project seeks to provide a better understanding of the potentially damaging personal experiences of the ‘housing crisis’, and broader of austerity, on contemporary youth. Moreover, it forces us to confront how housing issues intersect with the wider labour market, educational and income inequalities.
The project will provide qualitative evidence, including the use of novel photo elicitation methodology and interviews with private renters in England and Scotland (aged 18-35), to gain a deeper understanding of the meaning and emotional attachment to home for those living in the private rented sector as opposed to home ownership. The project will provide qualitative evidence to further influence policy, and facilitate learning from policy developments in different parts of the UK.

Starts: February 2018

What works in homelessness prevention in the UK and internationally

Team: Suzanne Fitzpatrick (Co-I), Peter Mackie (Co-I), Ken Gibb (Co-I), Jenny Preece (RA), Gareth James (KE) and What Works Scotland/Crisis.

Summary: A key challenge is the weak evidence base on which to design homelessness prevention. The last major study of homelessness prevention in the UK is now very dated, and while there has been a 'prevention turn' within homelessness policy in many parts of the developed world in recent years, with relevant initiatives in the US, Canada, and a range of European countries, there has been no systematic synthesis of the approaches taken, their efficacy, or their costs. At the same time, there has been some intense academic debate, particularly in the US, on how homelessness prevention should be conceptualised, or indeed whether it is a worthwhile exercise at all, but these issues remain unresolved. This project will develop a conceptual framework for understanding and comparing preventative approaches, moving beyond traditional categories to encompass various forms of prevention; conduct an international evidence review of current preventative strategies and programmes, framed using these conceptual categorisations; and include a small number of key informant interviews with well-placed stakeholders to 'sense check' the findings.

Starts: March 2018