John Boyle: Joined-up approach to building strength

Scotland faces 'chronic' housing problems, writes John Boyle of Rettie & Co. Picture: Michael Gillen
Scotland faces 'chronic' housing problems, writes John Boyle of Rettie & Co. Picture: Michael Gillen
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There was some fantastic news for Scotland recently when a University of Glasgow-led consortium won a national competition to guide and seek to influence UK housing policy in the years ahead.

With the bulk of the funding coming from the UK Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC), the newly-created and independent UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (CaCHE) will be headed by Ken Gibb, professor of housing economics at the University of Glasgow and director of Policy Scotland and launches on 1 August.

No-one is pretending we don’t have a mountain to climb

Rettie & Co is pleased to have both supported the successful bid and to continue as a consortium partner going forward – it’s a great example of the public and private sectors working more closely together on finding solutions to some deep-seated problems.

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The UK, including Scotland, faces chronic housing problems and this remains one of the most challenging policy areas for both national and devolved governments. The overall aim of CaCHE is for the joint expertise of the partners to provide relevant and rigorous evidence and research on both the housing and related markets, as well as to promote and facilitate more collaborative working, which will help to formulate more effective housing policy and practice across the nation.

The housing research centre will have its main administrative operation in Glasgow, with satellite hubs in London, Belfast, Cardiff and Sheffield. Non-academic partners include the Chartered Institute of Housing, the Royal Town Planning Institute and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

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What we know is that housing has a considerable impact on our economy and society as a whole. Almost one in ten UK jobs are in the housing sector; and more than a fifth of household spending goes on rent, mortgage payments, home repairs and other maintenance.

The six overlapping themes of the research programme are: housing and the economy; understanding demand, supply and delivery; housing choices and outcomes; poverty, health, education and employment; design, sustainability and place-making, and; multi-level governance. CaCHE will make an important contribution to developing new research and evidence capacity through ten housing PhDs, structured support for early career researchers, and an extensive network of secondment activities.

CaCHE will work closely with the housing sector across the length and the breadth of the UK. In Scotland, a knowledge exchange hub will be set up reprsenting the sector as a whole: private sector interests, social providers, residents and tenants, trade bodies, government and public agencies and other key players from the third sector. This group will work with the academic team, meeting regularly and establishing research and evidence priorities.

On a daily basis, we read a wide range of sector-related stories about affordable housing issues preventing young people from owning their own homes, the crises faced by our ageing population, sustainability, flooding and homelessness to name but a few. All of these factors, and many more, impact the state of our nation – our individual communities, regions and our overall economic prospects.

By pulling together our best people and organisations from across the public, university and private sectors, supported by international partners across the globe, there is real collective will across CaCHE to bring lasting and beneficial changes to housing in our country and to do so for all in society.

No-one is pretending we don’t have a mountain to climb, but this is a significant new start in terms of finding and using the evidence to formulate the polices that will have the most significant impacts on tackling some of the serious market and social issues that have been with us for decades. And, as they say, where there’s a will there’s a way.

• Dr John Boyle is director of research and strategy at Rettie & Co

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