CaCHE contribution to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Social Mobility

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Social Mobility (APPG) has been established to champion social housing providers that support tenants and residents to secure sustainable livelihoods. In this blog, Professor Ken Gibb and Dr Chris Foye outline the contribution that the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence will make.

Evidence (and lack thereof), as well as argument and debate, have long followed the alleged impacts of social housing on residents and communities. One particular area that has generated much heat has been the labour market. To what extent are social working-age tenants achieving worse than average outcomes in terms of jobs, work progression and earnings? Is this driven by their tenure circumstances or by their characteristics and circumstances, labour demand and/or location, among other things? Previous research for the JRF undertaken by myself and colleagues in 2016 found that social tenants had the same attitudes and responses to incentives as others in the labour market, but that they were disadvantaged by lack of skills, often poor local labour demand, by absent support networks and unaffordable child care, the failings of the benefits system, and by transport problems. Indeed, the research found that secure social housing was an important mechanism encouraging people to seek and take work.

Actually, there is only scant evidence that social housing in any way causes unemployment or poverty. Lindsay Judge of the Resolution Foundation recently found that that social housing tenants are more likely to be parents (especially lone parents), have a health condition or disability, and only have low-level qualifications – all factors which make employment more difficult but have very little to do with being a social housing tenant per se. Once we account for these realities, then the ‘social housing employment gap’ shrinks from 27 to 11 per cent. Moreover, there are lots of other factors which Judge is not able to control for (mental health, family support, access to employment) which may also help to shrink this gap further. In other words, when discussing social housing and employment we need to move beyond crude superficial accounts and seek to uncover the underlying causes of what is going on. This is also vitally important if we are to promote effective labour market interventions, be it by social landlords or by the state.

Thus, there is, at best, limited evidence that social housing causes unemployment or low pay for that matter. That said, there is still scope for government policy and social landlords to do more to enable employment and increased earnings among social housing tenants through, for example, building more social homes near job opportunities, or changing allocations policies to allow tenants to relocate without losing security of tenure (as discussed in our earlier study for JRF). Local providers also carry out pro-active policies to help tenants and local residents into work and then to progress in work.

It is with these issues in mind – expanded on in the background research document published today – that we can announce that the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (CaCHE) will work with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Social Mobility. Over the coming six months or so, the APPG will be undertaking an inquiry into housing and social employment. The APPG inquiry is supported by Communities that Work and PlaceShapers. Communities that Work are the registered Parliamentary secretariat, with additional support from the housing sector ‘GEM’ programme.

The inquiry will ask the following five meta-questions:

  • What is the relationship between social housing and employment?
  • Why are social housing tenants more likely to be in lower-paid and unstable employment than people living in other tenures?
  • How can the social housing sector be the catalyst for closing the social housing employment and earnings gap?
  • What can Government do to support the social housing sector and tenants, to reduce the social housing employment and earnings employment gap?
  • Cross-cutting the above, how has the voice of residents’ lived experience been heard and engaged with? Were residents involved in initiatives by providers and government agencies? How have policies and practices been accountable to the people they are designed for? What lessons are there for future employment innovation that will embed and engage with tenants?

Led by Professor Ken Gibb and Professor Mark Stephens, the CaCHE team will:

  • complete a high-level synthesis of the written evidence to be ready prior to the oral evidence sessions
  • plan, co-ordinate and co-host regional and London-based evidence sessions
  • work with the secretariat to provide overall findings, conclusions and recommendations for the final report.

The APPG inquiry will have a call for written evidence (deadline 29 May 2020), followed by a range of oral evidence sessions. The final report will be delivered in autumn of 2020.

If you would like to find out more about this work and CaCHE’s role within it, then please contact Dr Chris Foye.

Professor Ken Gibb is the Director of the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence. Dr Chris Foye is a Knowledge Exchange Associate for the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence.


Date: March 9, 2020 2:22 pm

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