Economic and Social Research Council
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New research centre to inform UK housing policy

ESRC, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation are delighted to announce the launch of 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 1 August 2017 and will receive £6 million 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 recently 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. I am delighted that Sheffield will be home to a large hub of researchers and that, as well as working with our partners regionally and nationally, we will be leading CaCHE’s doctoral training and helping develop the next generation of housing researchers."

Gavin Smart, Deputy Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, will be Director of Communications and Knowledge Exchange at CaCHE. He said: 

"We are delighted to be playing a leading role in this important new programme. CaCHE provides a unique opportunity to produce thorough research which will explore the critical challenges facing housing in the UK and provide policymakers and practitioners with a robust evidence base to inform their decisions.

"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."

Julie McLaren, Associate Director of Programmes at the Arts and Humanities Research Council, said:

"The AHRC congratulates Professor Gibb and his team on an excellent bid that will provide a wide range of perspectives on UK housing. We are particularly pleased that it includes an emphasis on how the arts and humanities can contribute to a broader understanding and an improved evidence base for housing policy and practice. Alongside the other funders we look forward to working with the CaCHE team to ensure that the Centre achieves their ambitious aims."

Further information

  • Liz Buie, Communications and Public Affairs Office, University of Glasgow
    Telephone: 0141 330 2702
  • Professor Ken Gibb, University of Glasgow
    Telephone: 07763 927375

Notes for editors

  1. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK’s largest funder of research on the social and economic questions facing us today. It supports the development and training of the UK’s future social scientists and also funds major studies that provide the infrastructure for research. ESRC-funded research informs policymakers and practitioners and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective. The ESRC also works collaboratively with six other UK research councils and Innovate UK to fund cross-disciplinary research and innovation addressing major societal challenges. The ESRC is an independent organisation, established by Royal Charter in 1965, and funded mainly by the Government.
  2. The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: history, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, languages, design, heritage, area studies, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98 million to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits and contributes to the economic success of the UK but also to the culture and welfare of societies around the globe.
  3. Joseph Rowntree Foundation is an independent organisation working to inspire social change through research, policy and practice.
  4. The core partners are the Universities of Glasgow, Sheffield, Reading, Cardiff, Heriot-Watt, Bristol, Ulster, Sheffield Hallam and St Andrews; along with the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. The non-academic partners in the consortium are: the Chartered Institute of Housing, the Royal Town Planning Institute, and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. An international advisory board will be chaired by Lord Kerslake, former Head of the Home Civil Service.
    CaCHE's administration will be located in Glasgow but there will also be hubs in Sheffield, Cardiff and London. Apart from the 29 co-investigators from the partner organisations, the programme will involve 220 named individual collaborators and more than 12 additional non-academic partners.
    A housing data navigator hub will be based at the University of Cardiff, and CaCHE will operate a network of networks” to share existing expertise by working with, and add to, rather than duplicating the many excellent existing professional, policy and practice networks that cover discrete housing sectors and UK regions.
  5. Key CaCHE facts:
    The core management of CaCHE is made up of Kenneth Gibb (PI, Director, University of Glasgow), Craig Watkins (Research Director, University of Sheffield), Gavin Smart (Communications and KE Director, Chartered Institute of Housing), Scott Orford (Data Director, University of Cardiff) and a centre manager, plus a wider management team made up of co-investigators who have theme lead or regional KE hub management responsibilities.
    There are four early career researchers who will shadow and support the team,  as well as 5 knowledge exchange staff and 8 (2 year) Post-Doc RFs split between Glasgow and Sheffield.

    The work programme involves in the first year - 12 exemplar/pilot projects including three with complementary ESRC investments: What Works Scotland, the Administrative Data Research Centre and Urban Big Data Centre. There are also up to 10 PhDs (three fees-only) all funded by institutional support.

    Key features of our approach are that:

    • CaCHE will operate across the UK from 5 subnational knowledge exchange hubs, each represented by the key non-academic stakeholders in local housing systems, plus a UK level version (a second role for the international advisory board);
    • CaCHE is committed to being multi-disciplinary across the social sciences and fully engaging with Arts & Humanities researchers
    • CaCHE is wholly committed to co-production with the wider housing non-academic community and will pursue this through the use of workshops to generate consensus through intensive facilitated discussion in order to prioritise evidence review and then subsequently primary research priorities.
  6. As a top 1 per cent university, University of Glasgow delivers world-class and world-changing research and education with impact. We are a member of the prestigious Russell Group of leading UK Universities, are connected to seven Nobel Laureates, and 81 per cent of our research is judged to be internationally excellent.
  7. Policy Scotland is the University of Glasgow’s public policy research and knowledge exchange hub which offers a unique bridge between researchers and policymakers – aiming to take the best policy ideas produced at the University from research to implementation, and to enhance the University's reputation as a national and international leader in public policy.
  8. With almost 27,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world's leading universities.
    A member of the UK's prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.
    Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.
    Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2017 and was voted number one university in the UK for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education in 2014. In the last decade it has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the UK's intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.
    Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.
    Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.


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