Thursday, November 29, 2012

Doctoral Research into Affordable Housing in the UK


In November 2012 I was fortunate to be able to establish a part-time PhD research position at University of the West of England.

My initial research proposition follows, although I suspect over the next year or so it will change.

The Affordable Housing sector in England, and particularly Housing Associations have been influenced and impacted by several changes in legislation and policy over many years. It is intended to examine whether the sector has been effective in delivering the outcomes required to all the stakeholders in the English Housing market, and whether the sector is able to deliver the outcomes required over the next 25 years? What evidence from other housing geographies can assist in clarifying a way forward for affordable housing in England?

Outline of Study Objectives
1. Identify and classify the intended and unintended outcomes from the social housing sector since its foundation in the 19th century.
2. Identify the change in capacity, intended outcomes and actual outcomes from Affordable Housing.
3. Survey Housing Providers to assess their success in responding to the changed nature of housing provision since 1974
4. Survey residents and stakeholders on the current housing market and its effectiveness in delivering their outcome expectations.
5. Survey and research other geographies (Europe, Asia, Australasia, Americas) and compare expectations of outcomes and current structure of those markets with the English environment.
6. Develop a comparative assessment of the future capacity of the English housing market and that in other geographies to deliver the range of outcomes explicitly or implicitly expected of the sector.
Research Justification

The ‘housing market’ in England is a complex, ever changing mix of private ownership, private rental, social rent, shared ownership and leasehold with supply being delivered by different agencies working under different regulatory structures. Families and individuals in need of accomodation are drawn into one or other tenure state based on income, family situation, local supply and demand and a range of other factors.

In 2008 the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit said that 240,000 new homes would need to be built in England each year by 2016; in the 12 months to 2012 the number built was 118,000, in 2011 109,020, and in 2010 103,300. Capital funding for development is being severely squeezed by the continuing economic difficulties while the anticipated Universal Benefits revision in 2013 will affect a significant proportion of the population’s income (and potentially change the way Housing Associations’ income is assessed by lenders.

Housing Associations account for 10% of the 22m+ residential units in England. Tenants in Social Housing are twice as likely as any other housing tenure to have no formal qualifications, and 1/5 as likely to have a degree. The National Inequality Panel investigated the linkages between inequalities in economic outcomes and people’s circumstances (Hills et al. 2010). It found that housing tenure was important in reflecting and exacerbating inequalities, and in particular ‘growing up in social housing’ was more closely associated with poorer economic outcomes in adulthood than in

Councils can now force homeless people into the private rented sector under new laws which came into effect in 2012. The new rules mean local housing authorities can end their duty to homeless people by offering accommodation in the private sector without an individual’s agreement. Previously, a council would still have to house someone if they refused the private rented sector accommodation offered to them. Underoccupancy is intended to be assessed and ‘addressed’ in planned legislation. New houses are required at a rate determined in significant degree by teh number of ‘new households’ being formed in England every year. The implied need to use land that is currently not developed, and the need for sustainable use of limited resources potentially act as restraints on the options for effective response to the continuing housing need.
The availability, characteristics and environment of housing has a profound effect on health, wellbeing, educational attainment, social inclusion and equality. This research will provide another component on the evidence base that could be used to modulate the reshaping of the English housing market to meet changing requiremenst from stakeholders.

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