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Co-producing housing research in Wales

Bob Smith and Pete Mackie give an update on the work of the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence in Wales and in the wider UK.

WHQ 109 reported on the Wales launch of CaCHE, a consortia of 14 institutions (including Cardiff University) which represents a multi-disciplinary partnership between academia, housing policy and practice. Over the course of a five-year programme (which started in late 2017) it will produce evidence reviews and new research designed to help tackle the UK’s housing problems at national, devolved, regional and local levels.

Within CaCHE there are five Knowledge Exchange hubs across the UK (including one specifically for Wales), designed to shape future housing research and to ensure an exchange of views, information and knowledge. Last year we hosted the first meetings of a group of 30 key organisations and individuals representing a broad range of stakeholders working across the public, private and third sectors in Wales, as well as in academia, designed to ensure that housing policy and practice are able to shape the work of CaCHE to reflect Welsh concerns and priorities.

Initially we undertook an exercise in which Wales Hub members, working in small groups, were asked to identify the most pressing housing problems and issues facing Wales and to try and reach a consensus on the key critical issues. Of course, there are many high-level priorities, but at the end of the workshop five  broad multi-dimensional concerns emerged as the top priorities.

  • Affordability
  • Quality
  • Delivery
  • Homelessness
  • Space, planning and the role of community

In collaboration with TPAS Cymru we also ran a separate residents’ voice focus group to develop a tenant perspective on housing priorities. In no particular order these were:

  • The need for more affordable housing for life
  • Addressing issues of welfare reform
  • Putting tenants at the heart of housing
  • Raising standards of housing services and accountability.

A more detailed analysis of the results of these two events is available at housingevidence.ac.uk/co-producing-research-priorities-wales-results.

The events in Wales have been replicated across the other hubs and with the CaCHE International Advisory Board to shape future research and evidence gathering work. The ten priority areas for future research have been set out by CaCHE director Professor Ken Gibb (Glasgow University) and these (again in no particular order) are set out below:

  • Afordability
  • Increasing supply
  • Private renting
  • Homelessness
  • Housing needs and demand
  • Customer voice and engagement
  • Planning and place-making
  • Health, care and housing
  • What does a fixed housing system look like?
  • Policy evaluation methods.

The perspectives drawn from the Welsh Hub and resident voice focus group are well-reflected in these new research priorities.

Since last summer CaCHE has been publishing various reports, evidence reviews, policy briefings and working papers on its website (see link below). Whilst a majority of these are UK-wide papers, many are pertinent to Wales. However, of specific relevance to Wales, at the end of March 2019 CaCHE will be publishing, in collaboration with Mind Cymru, an evidence review (and separate policy briefing) on housing insecurity and mental health in Wales. In Spring this year there will be a report on homelessness prevention in the UK, critically examining shifting policies across the different UK nations, with a view to mutual lesson learning.

CaCHE is also co-funding (jointly with Welsh Government) a one year project exploring the potential for developing a new individual-level homeless data collection system for Wales, with a view to improving the evidence base on which to design better services and policy responses to homelessness. Following a highly competitive bidding process late last year CaCHE is also supporting (through its Knowledge Exchange Fund) a small number of external projects with policy and practice. Of particular relevance to Wales is work which is underway on how housing can deliver a healthier Wales, which is being led by Tyfu Tai Cymru.

The CaCHE Wales Hub is also helping to shape some of the newly emerging UK research projects and evidence reviews, which are being developed to take forward the ten strategic priority areas see above. In December Wales Hub members had the opportunity to consider five newly emerging research projects (older renters in the private rented sector, approaches to tenant participation, in delivering design value, forms and mechanisms of exclusion in the contemporary housing system and an evidence review of rent control/regulation) and their relevance to Wales.

Feedback from Wales Hub members has been provided to project co-investigators, in terms of views of individual projects and their relevance to Wales. There will be further opportunities later this year for the CaCHE Wales Hub to critique and shape future research projects, as well as to express their views as to how housing policy and practice could input to specific projects, in their design, implementation and dissemination.

Although it is still relatively early days, the CaCHE Wales Hub (along with the other CaCHE hubs across the UK) is co-creating housing research priorities, co-producing new projects and evidence and helping to shape and disseminate housing research to address housing problems and benefit housing policy in Wales.

CaCHE is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Details about its work at housingevidence.ac.uk. For further information about CaCHE in Wales contact either Dr Peter Mackie ([email protected]) or Dr Bob Smith ([email protected]).


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