ESRC, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have launched the new UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (CaCHE).
Housing has a considerable impact on our society and economy. Almost one in 10 British jobs are in the housing sector, and more than a fifth of household spending goes on rent, mortgage payments, home repairs, maintenance and improvements. The availability, cost and design of housing impacts on people’s aspirations, their health and wellbeing, and even their children’s education. Failure of housing markets can lead to wider economic problems, as well as poverty and homelessness.
The new national research centre, which will be independent from government and other interests, is a collaboration between nine UK universities and four non-HEI organisations and will have staff located at five hubs across the UK in Glasgow, Sheffield, London, Cardiff and Belfast. CaCHE will be led by the University of Glasgow. CaCHE will advance knowledge of the housing market, provide robust evidence to inform housing policy and practice across the UK, and will join together a comprehensive range of stakeholders with the goal of tackling housing problems at a national, devolved, regional, and local level.
The five-year centre will launch on August 1 and will receive £6m of funding from the ESRC, with support from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the AHRC. A further £1.5 million of funding will come from the consortium itself.
The work of the programme will focus on six overlapping themes:
- Housing and the economy
- Understanding housing markets: demand and need, supply and delivery
- Housing aspirations, choices and outcomes
- Housing, poverty, health, education and employment
- Housing and neighbourhood design, sustainability and place-making
- Multi-level governance.
Professor Ken Gibb, currently director of policy Scotland at the University of Glasgow, will be principal investigator and Director of CaCHE. He said: “In the UK, housing is one of the main policy challenges facing national and devolved governments. This major new programme will allow policy makers and practitioners across the UK to benefit from the best possible evidence to help them take the robust action needed to tackle chronic housing problems.
“The aim is to use multi-disciplinary expertise to provide relevant and rigorous housing evidence and research to influence and ultimately alter housing policy for the benefit of all.
“I am delighted that the University of Glasgow and our partners will be taking the lead on this incredibly important subject. The serious and complex problems of the housing system are too important to ignore. This is why I’m looking forward to this major new initiative making a serious contribution to tackling one of the most pressing policy problems in the UK today.”
Professor Craig Watkins, director of research and innovation for the social sciences at the University of Sheffield, will be the director of research for CaCHE. He added: “The investment in CaCHE provides a generational opportunity for the research, policy and practice communities to work in partnership for a sustained period. The Centre is uniquely placed to foster collaboration across the housing sector to develop novel, and truly innovative solutions to the UK’s housing problems.”
Gavin Smart, deputy chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, will be director of communications and knowledge exchange at CaCHE. He said: “Given the scale of the challenges currently faced by housing there has arguably never been a more important time to systematically gather together a robust evidence base.
“It is excellent to see ESRC, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and AHRC commit such a significant level of funding to a new centre which brings the professional and academic worlds together in a way that will make a very real difference to enhance our understanding of the challenges we face in the UK and inform how we tackle them.”
Professor Jane Elliott, CEO of the Economic and Social Research Council, said: “As a nation we face key housing challenges, such as a lack of affordable housing preventing young people from owning their own home, meeting the housing needs of an ageing population, building sustainable houses that are resilient to flooding and climate change, and tackling homelessness.
“Improving the UK’s growth and stability, the cohesion of its communities and the wellbeing and prosperity of its citizens requires effective housing policies. It is therefore vital that policymakers have the best evidence at hand when making decisions about what sort of houses to build, where and for whom.
“This Centre draws together internationally renowned experts across a diverse range of fields. It will serve as a vital national institution, and provide a leading voice in the UK on housing issues.”
Brian Robson, policy and research manager for housing at the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “The UK’s housing crisis has led to rising poverty and insecurity. But housing policy is also central to ensuring everyone in the UK can achieve a decent and secure standard of living. To stop high housing costs from driving down standards of living, we need a specific focus on evidence-based polices to make the market work for people on low incomes. I’m delighted JRF has been able to contribute to the establishment of this independent centre of expertise, with a presence in all four UK nations; and that consideration of the close links between housing and poverty will run throughout its work.”