The recently established UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (CaCHE) was officially launched at a Westminster event yesterday where academics from across the UK announced a series of major research projects.

As it stands, many UK housing policies have been based on assumptions or beliefs rather than fact. Over the next five years UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence will work to ensure that policy makers and practitioners benefit from rigorous evidence which will contribute to tackling the UK’s housing problems at a national, devolved, regional, and local level.

The Centre, which is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and Joseph Rowntree Foundation, is a collaboration between ten universities and three non-higher education organisations. Staff are located at hubs across the UK in Glasgow, Sheffield, London, Reading, Cardiff and Belfast.

The Centre has been operating since 1 August and was officially launched at a networking event at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in London on 18 October to announce its work programme for this year, including major new research projects, a UK wide knowledge exchange network within the sector, and support for early career researchers.

During the event, Director and principal investigator, Professor Ken Gibb, provided more information about the programme of work that will be undertaken. These focus on the Centre's 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, and 
  • Multi-level governance.

Lord Bob Kerslake, former head of the Home Civil Service and Permanent Secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government, is the Chair of the International Advisory Board.

He said: "After months of planning and preparation, Ken Gibb and his team are now embarking on important research on housing in the UK, an area that is widely and correctly seen to be a sector of the economy and society that is not working for too many people, in too many places and with too many wider negative consequences.

"I wish them well and look forward to the new international advisory board playing a major role in their work."

Professor Gibb added: "CaCHE will generate a bank of evidence reviews and research that aims to fill important gaps and contribute to policy and practice development.

But it is also these wider roles that excite us so much: making a significant contribution to establishing the next cohort of housing researchers, using different channels to deepen and maintain networks between academia and those working in or making policies for the housing sector.

"This is potentially a second legacy from a research investment that primarily seeks to use evidence to influence policy and embed evidencing into making policy."

Professor Tony McEnery, Interim Chief Executive of the Economic and Social Research Council, said:

"As a nation we face certain housing challenges such as a lack of affordable homes for young people, meeting the housing needs of an ageing population, building sustainable houses that are resilient to flooding and climate change, and tackling homelessness.

"We want to improve the UK's growth and stability, but we also want to build strong communities and improve the wellbeing and prosperity of citizens. This requires effective housing policies and so it is 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."

Alexandra Vincent, Associate Director of Programmes at the Arts and Humanities Research Council, said:

"The AHRC is delighted to congratulate Professor Gibb and the team on the launch of the Centre. The emphasis on how arts and humanities can contribute to a broader understanding and improved evidence base for housing policy and practice is especially welcome. Along with the other founders, we are looking forward to working with the CaCHE team to realise the exciting ambitions of the Centre."

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."

How CaCHE will operate

CaCHE has received £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.

Initially, the centre will carry out a scoping study concerned with what we know across key aspects of these themes. It will then carry out a dozen exemplar projects linked to the themes, often in partnership with other partners and other ESRC investments.

In order to prioritise the work from year two onwards, knowledge exchange hubs will be set up across the UK wherein intensive workshops representing stakeholders across the housing system will define what the agreed priorities will be. This will also include separate focus groups with residents to ensure that their voice is properly captured. This approach draws on the innovative approach adopted by Harvard University's Tobin project model.

A fundamental element to the centre's work will be the support offered to early career researchers, securing the future generation of housing academics. Alongside our PhD programme (up to 10 studentships), it will employ in total eight post-doctoral researchers and three knowledge exchange associates. There are also four early career co-investigators who will shadow and support the senior management team. Finally, there is also a significant secondment programme for senior as well as junior posts.