Simon Williams (University of Leeds/ Acuity Research & Practice) and Tony Price (Housing Plus Group) discuss the first joint meeting of the Research Users in Social Housing (RUSH) and Northern Regional Research Group on 25th April, hosted at Leeds University Business School, University of Leeds. The event was supported by a Housing Studies Association events bursary.
The RUSH group has been in existence since 2015 and the Northern Research Group since 2013. Both groups were established with broadly similar aims – to build a network of social housing researchers undertaking research ‘at the sharp end’ of service delivery, promote effective research in housing, share knowledge, reports and experiences to shape strategy, policy and service development.
Simon Williams, previously a Research Manager at Leeds Federated and who helped set up the Northern Research Group, said, “When undertaking research in housing associations [or similar], it can be quite a challenge to promote the work you do because you’re often either the only researcher in your organisation or in very small teams providing a very distinct specialism. I found joining together with like-minded researchers definitely strengthens the emphasis and value that can be gained. We’re now looking to continue this at a greater scale, and have one nationally representative group for social housing researchers under the RUSH name”.
Tony Price, Policy, Research and New Initiatives Manager to Housing Plus Group and a RUSH member agrees, “RUSH was set up to help share research work and good practice, identify joint working opportunities and support colleagues in the sector. So, a joint approach with fellow researchers is a certainly a good idea and it will be exciting to see how things develop in the future.”
With an organisational committee of 8 members, meetings usually occur every 6 months around different parts of the country. Around 30 people attended this time representing housing organisations of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds. The theme of the day was the diverse ecology of housing research and there was certainly a diversity of topics and opinions on show!
Presentations covered segmentation of repairs demand and income, integrated housing in America (Emma Garland, Hull City Council), Social Lettings Agencies in the Midlands (Dr Halima Sacranie), the impact of welfare and tenancy reforms on housing associations (Michael Marshall, Network Homes), a general discussion on use of information (Alison Leech and Rebecca Simpson, Incommunities) and smaller sessions on practical data (Kathy Ellis, Clarion), the Voluntary Right to Buy and research after the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulations (Muriel Bankhead, Notting Hill, Genesis). The presentations sparked a lot of associated discussion and the debate was wide ranging, eclectic and very interesting; from mould and damp in UK and Danish houses (Caroline Duvier, currently working at Incommunities and PhD student at University of Bradford, and Sirid Bonderup, PhD student at the Danish Building Institute) to the eligible age limits for moving into some American housing schemes.
A key element of the day was showing how research data and findings are used in the ‘real world’ to inform strategy, policy and service development particularly around links between repairs frequency and capital investment in stock (not the relationship you would think). There were also interesting discussions on the benefits and pitfalls of various research methodologies.
There was a lot of discussion about how research findings and learning can be used in various national initiatives including Rethinking Social Housing and the Social Housing Green Paper. It was great to have academics from Birmingham, Leeds, and Sheffield Universities to bring some ‘academic rigour’ to the discussions. Particular focus was on the emerging work of Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (Dr Gareth Young and Dr Jenny Preece, CaCHE) and there are clear links between this and RUSH. Everyone was unanimous that this was a relationship that is worth cultivating and this will be developed in the next few months.
If you want to know more about RUSH or get involved contact Tony Price, Policy, Research & Initiatives Manager at Housing Plus Group ([email protected]); or Simon Williams, Research Fellow at Leeds University Business School, University of Leeds ([email protected]) and Director at Acuity Research & Practice ([email protected])