About the Project

PROJECT TITLE

Boosting the supply of affordable rented housing in the UK: learning from other countries

AIMS & OBJECTIVES

The principal aim of this project is to:

Investigate the feasibility of using fresh ideas, inspired by an examination of policy and practice in other countries, to generate innovative practice and policy that will boost the production of affordable housing for rent in the UK.

The objectives are to:

  1. Update and clarify information from previous research on tax and other financial incentives in several countries that boost the construction of affordable rented housing. These measures are effectively ‘conditional financial incentives’ i.e. conditions are imposed that keep rents below market levels and the incomes of the tenants below defined thresholds. Guarantees are provided that the housing will be subject to these conditions for a specified time period – typically 15 to 20 years.
  2. Examine the practical barriers to, and the opportunities for, the application in the UK of new conditional financial incentives to increase the volume of construction of housing intended for occupancy at sub-market rents. These are incentives inspired by overseas practice.
  3. Identify the institutional and practice changes required of housing suppliers to implement new (internationally inspired) practices that increase rental housing production.
  4. Identify the policy changes required by government to implement new (internationally inspired) practices that increase rental housing production.
  5. Monitor the impact of the use by Places for People of a residential Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) to increase investment in rental housing. The intended use of a REIT has been inspired by practice elsewhere, especially the USA.
  6. Contribute to comparative research methods in social sciences that are designed to examine the potential for the beneficial transfer of practice and policy instruments between countries in the light of varying contexts and suggest strategies for resolving the methodological questions.
  7. Specify the aims, objectives and methods of further research that is required to increase the impact of overseas experience on raising housing production in the UK.

SUMMARY

Places for People (PfP), one of the largest housing development and management organisations in the UK, is partnering the Centre for Comparative Housing Research (CCHR) at De Montfort University in this ESRC knowledge exchange funded project.

Working together the partners are examine the feasibility of using fresh ideas, generated by an examination of policy and practice in North America and Western Europe, to initiate innovative practice and policy that will boost the production of affordable housing for rent in the UK. The research will build on previous research into housing supply overseas by CCHR. It will also benefit from the vast experience of PfP in developing and managing homes. They have already used innovative ideas from overseas such as planning for a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) that could raise up to £500 million for investment in new housing.

Over a period of six months the research partners are looking at the housing policy context and explore policy and institutional changes that are needed to boost the construction of housing for rent in the UK. The basis of the research will be updating, extending and most importantly exploring the possible impact for PfP and others of previous research. The project will also define the parameters of a future more detailed applied research project.

The theoretical context is the international transferability of policy and practice instruments. The practical transferability within a UK context is being tested in collaboration with PfP personnel and the researchers are engaging with other housing suppliers and government departments. There is an emphasis on financial incentives to boost housing construction for affordable rented housing in the USA and France (although incentives in other countries are also being considered).

Professor Michael Oxley is working on the project with Ros Lishman, Dr Tim Brown and Dr Jo Richardson  from CCHR. Several staff from PfP are also working with CCHR. There are additionally be some inputs from colleagues overseas including the OTB Research Institute for the Built Environment at Delft University of Technology, Netherlands.

The impact and practical transferability questions are being addressed through a series of discussions, presentations and seminars involving PfP staff and other stakeholders including other housing organisations local government and central government departments. PfP and CCHR are working together on the policy transfer questions and the agenda for future research. Significant knowledge exchange is being encouraged through joint working between PfP and CCHR. The target audience for the research is non-academic stakeholders in the private, public and civil society sectors. It will thus be of relevance to a range of housing producers, including private firms and housing associations. It will furthermore have significant implications for government policy towards housing production. Government wants more house building and it wants more affordable rented housing. It is seeking ways of achieving this. This research will help produce new ideas and it will, through the involvement of PfP, apply a rigorous ‘reality check’ to the value and applicability of fresh ideas.

In line with ESRC strategic objectives the research is examining the possible impact of key public policy interventions and is appraising, in the light of the connections between the global financial crisis and depleted house building, appropriate institutional responses.

Ultimately it is expected that this research will have an impact on the volume of housing construction and the availability of rented housing for lower income households. It will do this by influencing the actions of housing suppliers (in the private and public sectors) and of government. The long term economic and societal impacts will thus be highly significant and will be promoted by direct and indirect engagement with the target audience.