Housing policies & the COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19, the lockdown and their profound economic and social ramifications are inescapable. The UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (CaCHE) is already offering a pipeline for academics and senior practitioners to communicate their immediate thoughts through blogs, videos, webinars and working papers. We also participate in international academic networks (e.g. Policy Scotland) concerned with sharing knowledge and ideas as we move through the crisis. While many if not most sectors are profoundly affected by the public health and economic dimensions of what we are all going through, it is clearly the case that housing is both a key site where lockdown takes place and also a major policy arena of itself.

CaCHE will lead a more reflective project charting how the key housing policies unwind as we start to contemplate the post-COVID-19 policy world. Following a discussion with Prof Hal Pawson (UNSW) who is leading a study of COVID-19 policy evolution in Australia based around three themes (homelessness, eviction and the rented sectors, and income support and housing payments), we have decided that there is more we can do across the UK. With this in mind, CaCHE will follow an amended form of the same methods/research design as our Australian colleagues but do so over 5 themes, and do this drawing on our internal resources of Co-Investigators and research/KE staff time.  We will also contribute fully to the comparative work led by Hal Pawson.

Aim and Objectives

The CaCHE management team intended that the third wave of our internal projects would be ‘announced’  later in 2020 but events have overtaken us and the plan is now to initiate a large cross-cutting project to run for around 15 months (ie the autumn of 2021). This will involve a number of strands of work by CaCHE staff, including co-investigators, the Knowledge Exchange team and research associates, all working under my overall leadership

The aim overall is to provide an understanding of the housing policy changes that have taken place in response to the virus and then to draw on documentary evidence, key informant interviews will be carried out twice as well as possible later focus groups and (opportunistically) to link the policy analysis to any related supporting research work already underway.

The two distinctive elements of the research are: (1) that it will take place over a long enough period to understand how these policies fare and how/if at all they evolve or revert to the ex-ante status quo; (2) each strand or theme of the work will follow the same basic methods allowing for direct comparison within the UK.

We wish to highlight within-UK (across the devolved nations) differences in policy, implementation and evolution (including London). Clearly, some of our theme issues will reflect UK competence rather than devolved administrations, but the effects and the implementation may vary, so this will probably remain a live and valid means by which to investigate the policies.

We seek to understand the trajectory policies take over space and time and to use the knowledge gained to consider the way the COVID-19 experience has reshaped housing policy. Unlike much of the work currently underway we will have the luxury of considering these questions over a long enough period to be more considered, deliberate and thoughtful, also allowing us to make sense of international comparative evidence as well as divergence within the UK.

We think the key added-value elements of the work will be:

  • Comparability of method across themes
  • The longer view afforded by the timescale
  • The ability to draw on our subject-specific expert networks
  • The capacity to draw on existing and ongoing research to complement the project.

We propose currently to undertake short rapid reviews to generate hypotheses and provide support to project themes. The first of these led by Dr Chris Foye, supported by Prof Alex Marsh and Ken Gibb, and will cover the policy science literature on what we know about policymaking in periods of crisis including how policymakers respond to the crisis. The second review, central to these uncertain times, will draw on ideas to do with alternative scenario building and its contribution to analysis, and will be led by Prof Alex Marsh. We also plan to draw on the services of all five of our Knowledge Exchange hubs for this project.

The Team

The team will be led overall by Prof Ken Gibb. He will also lead on the income support and housing payment theme (working with Prof Moira Munro – which will also consider the housing market, lending and repossessions). Prof Suzanne Fitzpatrick and Dr Pete Mackie will lead on the homelessness theme and Prof Alex Marsh will lead on the evictions and rented sector theme working with Dr Chris Foye (with Dr Adriana Soaita leading on a sub-theme to do with tenant activism). Prof Annette Hastings (working with Prof Mhairi Mackenzie, from Urban Studies at the University of Glasgow) will lead a theme on domestic abuse legislation and housing. Prof Mark Stephens will lead a theme on housing systems, their institutions and resilience (working with Prof Ken Gibb, and Prof Alex Marsh, and with Prof Flora Samuel leading a sub-theme on design and resilience). Colleagues across CaCHE: co-investigators, research and KE staff  – are all contributing to the project.

For further information on this work, please contact Prof Ken Gibb or Dr Chris Foye.


Date: May 20, 2020 2:29 pm


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