University staff join collaborative housing research project

St Andrews joins eight universities and four institutions exploring all aspects of British housing.

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Photo: Courtesy University of St Andrews

Last week, the School of Geography and Sustainable Development announced that senior members of its staff have joined a major research project focused on collecting housing-related data. The Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence will be granted a total of £7.5 million from various charities and research institutions.

St Andrews joins eight universities and four institutions helping with the project. The University’s team will rely on work from Dr Kim McKee, director of the Centre for Housing Research at St Andrews and geography and sustainable development senior lecturer.

Dr McKee explained the importance of her research, saying, “Housing is fundamental to understanding contemporary patterns of social-spatial inequality in the UK. It has an acute impact on a vast array of individual and societal outcomes, from health and well-being to economic growth.”

The research conducted by CaCHE will focus on six themes, most notably housing and the economy, sustainability, and housing poverty. All aspects of the British housing market will be analysed and explored.

Eventually, the group hopes to achieve its stated goal of “tackling housing problems at a national, devolved, regional, and local level.”

The core partners in CaCHE are the Universities of Glasgow, Sheffield, Reading, Cardiff, Heriot-Watt, Bristol, Ulster, Sheffield Hallam, and St Andrews.

Along with the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, the group is aided by the Chartered Institute of Housing, the Royal Town Planning Institute, and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

The University of Glasgow’s Dr Ken Gibb, principal investigator and director of the project, said, “The serious and complex problems of the housing system are too important to ignore. This is why I’m looking forward to this major new initiative making a serious contribution to tackling one of the most pressing policy problems in the UK today.”

Professor Jane Eliott, CEO of the Economic and Social Research Council, described CaCHE as “a vital national institution,” as well as “a leading voice in the UK on housing issues.”

In late 2016, the government announced a £3.7 billion plan to build 140,000 homes around the country, as well as provide funding and support for both the rental and ownership sectors.

Meanwhile, the University has frequently been subject to criticism over its handling of accommodation.

In 2014, it was forced to place more than 60 first-year students in postgraduate housing due to a shortage of beds.

In the same year, St Andrews took the unusual step of converting study spaces and common rooms in University Hall and St Regulus Hall, respectively, to four-bed rooms.

Furthermore, at the beginning of the 2015 academic year, students living in Fife Park expressed concerns that their accommodation was “unfinished.”

There were reports of several problems with the hall’s plumbing, electrical appliances, and heating, as well as complaints that there was still ongoing construction.

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