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Evidencing housing priorities for the incoming governments of Scotland and Wales

As we await the general elections in Scotland and Wales, the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence is publishing new papers that set out evidence-based priorities for the incoming Governments after the election. This is our attempt to draw on the evidence and research we have worked on in the last three years to build a case for certain policy ideas that we think are worthy of further consideration.

We have produced documents for Scotland and for Wales. In the case of Scotland, the document examines ten issues, it looks at relevant evidence and proposes new policy ideas under each heading. The Welsh paper considers six policy areas and 12 policy priorities.

Scotland

The Scottish document begins by setting the context. This requires spending some time reflecting on the route map of Housing to 2040, published in March of this year. We also reflect on the impact of Covid-19 and draw the reader to a number of the trade bodies and other housing or related organisations who have produced their own housing policy priorities for the coming election.

The Scottish paper covers ten specific subject areas:

  • End to end evidence
  • Retrofit
  • Improving the existing housing stock
  • Land, planning and supply
  • Design value and neighbourhoods
  • Towards a social housing supply programme
  • Affordable intermediate interventions
  • Private renting
  • Wealth and tax reform
  • Homelessness prevention.

If you have a look at the paper, you will see the detailed proposals that are contained therein. Here we just point to a couple of the central points. One of our overarching considerations is the embedding of good evidence into housing policy and practice. This is why we make a call for a consolidated end to end evidence approach to housing research and policy. By this we mean three key elements: rigorous appraisal when considering new interventions, monitoring the implementation and outcomes of interventions, and, serious evaluation to assess the effectiveness of such policies. We also think that this should have a local counterpoint. We make a case for revitalising the principle of capacity to deliver local housing systems analysis as a way to strengthen housing needs and demand assessment, particularly with respect to analysis of the private housing market and its systemic interaction with other parts of the housing system. We strongly encourage more of a local focus for this housing planning function.

The other point that arises in the paper both from reflecting on the ten issue areas we discussed but also in Housing to 2040, is that there is no escape from the need to take seriously the question of closing the implementation gap. By this we mean the urgent need to find the capacity and the resources to deliver the regulatory enforcement and compliance which is essential to so much of what we seek to propose. This is as true of further reforms to the private rented sector as it is to the housing planning system,  to ensuring standards are raised across all housing tenures, and in terms of the massive retrofit effort that lies ahead of us. It is not the most exciting topic to be sure, but necessary, additional, local capacity,  resources and proper governance are essential to the delivery of the kind of housing system we want to see.

Wales

In setting the context the Wales paper begins by looking back on the work of the CaCHE Wales Knowledge Exchange Hub and the important role it has played in shaping the research priorities of CaCHE.  As with the Scotland document it also acknowledges the significance of the COVID-19 pandemic, not only in changing policy responses but also in thinking about how the experiences may be reshaping future housing policy. The Wales paper then considers six broad areas of housing policy. These are:

  • Affordable housing supply
  • Homelessness
  • Private rented sector
  • Tenant engagement
  • Creating sustainable places
  • Housing and health

For each of these, the relevant section of the paper starts by setting out the current Welsh policy context.  We then highlight some of the key research evidence which CaCHE researchers and others working under the aegis of CaCHE have published over the last few years, which we hope will help to inform housing policy development in Wales over the next five years. Drawing on these various studies the document also sets out what we consider to be 12 housing policy priorities (2 for each of the above areas) for the next Welsh Government.

In the penultimate section of the paper, we highlight several ongoing CaCHE studies which will be published later this year and which we believe have relevance for policy makers in Wales. These include research examining the retrofitting of existing housing, a consideration of policies designed to encourage the improvement of existing housing and the development of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC). The paper also highlights the need to improve the quality of housing data in Wales, which we believe is key to developing effective housing policies, as well as the skills for analysis and interpretation.

Whilst the paper has linked evidence to key areas of housing policy in Wales, in the concluding section we stress the importance of understanding the links between different aspects of housing policy but also the relationships between housing and other areas of public policy. We also highlight how CaCHE has made the case for a systems thinking approach to housing. Finally, although Wales does not have an equivalent document to Scotland’s Housing to 2040, the paper argues for developing a longer-term strategy for housing in Wales which would be comprehensive, evidence-based, and capable of ongoing monitoring, evaluation and review and would inform deep-rooted strategic policy thinking in relation to housing.

 

 
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Date: April 29, 2021 8:40 am

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