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My reflections on the HSA

Steffan Evans looks back at a conference bringing together housing practictioners and researchers and forward to TAI 2018.

Earlier this month I attended my first ever Housing Studies Association (HSA) Annual Conference in Sheffield. The theme for this year’s conference was ‘Professionalism, Policy and Practice: Exploring the Relationship between Theory and Practice in Housing Studies’ and as someone with a foot in both camps the topics under discussion were of great interest.

As someone who has attended a number of academic and sector conferences during my time as a PhD student at Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre and as a participation officer at TPAS Cymru, this was the first conference I had attended with such an explicit aim.

In appealing to both practitioners and researchers the HSA plays an important role in the busy housing conference calendar. There are numerous excellent practitioner focused conferences and many fantastic national and international academic housing conferences. Each of these have a vital role to play in furthering our understanding of housing as a subject area, providing an opportunity for individuals and organisations to share experiences and ideas for the future.

By attracting an audience of practitioners and researchers, however, a unique atmosphere is generated at the HSA. Delegates from a predominantly academic background are provided with an opportunity to subject their research to challenge from those working as practitioners in the field. Such input is vital to ensure that the academic work being undertaken on housing theory is consistent with the real world. On the other hand, practitioners can share their experiences and ideas with an audience who have an expert understanding of housing, but, who do not all deal with frontline issues daily. Academics are therefore able to explore their work with fresh eyes, creating a great forum for ideas to be shared and developed.

Another positive aspect of the HSA is that it welcomes delegates from all over the UK. This allows participants to compare and contrast the latest developments within their nation with other parts of the UK. From a personal perspective, I was very pleasantly surprised at the level of knowledge and interest at the conference in Wales.

My own paper was based on my PhD research and examined some of the differences that have developed in social housing regulation between Wales and England. There is a tendency for UK events to be English-centric, but this was certainly not the case at the HSA, with those in audience for my paper asking pertinent and interesting questions. My sense leaving the conference was that there would certainly be support to see more people that work in the sector in Wales in attendance.

Finally, the HSA has done nothing to change my perception that people who work in housing are generally great people. Everyone at the conference was incredibly friendly and it was great to see academics and practitioners mix socially as well as in the conference sessions. Anyone who has any concerns that they might not feel comfortable in attending a conference that straddles both disciplines do not need to be concerned and it would be great to see more Welsh Housing Quarterly readers at the conference next year.

Conference season continues this week with TAI 2018. TAI is always a highlight of the Welsh housing calendar and I will be there on behalf of TPAS Cymru. Please make sure that you call over to our stand for a conversation, both with regards to our work as an organisation, but also if you think you might be interested in attending the HSA next year but want to find out more.

Dr Steffan Evans is participation officer at TPAS Cymru

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