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Working together to improve housing statistics

Statistics on housing and planning are vital across the UK. In May, the Deputy National Statistician for Population and Public Policy, Iain Bell, published a blog that set out a strategic programme and five key areas to improve the evidence base on housing.

Following on from Iain’s blog, today’s update is intended to provide you with an overview of the developments taking place at the working level and in particular, what action is being taken in response to the issues highlighted in the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) review of housing and planning statistics.

The 2012 National Statistician’s review of housing market statistics initially brought together a number of government departments to oversee the implementation of recommendations stemming from the review. However, this group disbanded over time so in late 2017 it was agreed a new group was needed to fill this gap, and the Cross-Government Housing Statistics Group (CGHSG) was formed.

The CGHSG brings together experts from several departments and Devolved Administrations to, amongst other things, review the quality, coherence and accessibility of official housing statistics. One of the first priorities for the CGHSG was to consider the findings from the OSR review and begin the work to make any necessary improvements. The initial meetings of the CGHSG highlighted how wide-ranging the production of housing statistics can be, so we felt it was important to provide users with an overview of what housing data is produced across government and catalogue the data that is published. The outcome of this work has recently been published on the newly created housing statistics webpage, where you can access the draft overview of housing and planning statistics, as well as access the guide to UK Housing and Planning Statistics, which provides links to all the statistics currently produced in this area.

The newly formed group also developed a detailed action plan to address each of the findings from the OSR review. The CGHSG action plan (doc, 35 KB),  can be accessed via the Government Statistical Service (GSS) housing statistics pages and will be updated periodically with progress. As housing and planning statistics cover such a wide area, it was agreed to look at some elements on a topic by topic basis to make the implementation of improvements easier, and the first topic we chose was the private rented sector. A topic report will be published by the CGHSG later in 2018 that will provide users with a better understanding of the private rented sector, what statistics are produced across the UK (and how they might interact or differ across countries) and what can potentially be done to improve statistics in this sector.  Whilst the immediate focus of the CGHSG will be the private rented sector, other improvements are also being made, for example:

  • The GSS Harmonisation team are engaging with government departments, the Devolved Administrations, academics and the third sector to develop an understanding of homelessness definitions and research the feasibility of a UK-wide definition. A report will be published in November 2018 which will summarise the definitions in use across the UK, outline the feasibility of a UK-wide definition and detail next steps.
  • Departments have been reviewing and updating the material that accompany our statistics. In a number of cases supporting documentation, such as Quality Assurance of Administrative Data (QAADs) have been produced to provide further assurance for users regarding the quality of data being used in the production of housing statistics. Examples include the Welsh Government quality report for homelessness statistics, the QAAD for Northern Ireland Housing Statistics, and a quality and methodology paper for the Index of Private Housing Rental Prices, published by ONS.
  • In late 2018, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government published additional analysis representing the 50 years of the English Housing Survey to further widen the way these statistics are published.
  • The Scottish Government introduced an innovative ‘data comic’ to help reach a wider audience in promoting the use and awareness of the Scottish Household Survey.
  • The Welsh Government’s Housing Condition Evidence Programme has made substantive progress with initial results of the first Welsh Housing Condition Survey since 2008 due to be published in November and a recent progress report published on the development of a Housing Stock Analytical Resource, bringing together a range of data sources on the characteristics and condition of the Welsh housing stock.
  • Departments and Devolved Administrations are working together to create a UK housing and planning statistics framework to conceptually illustrate what may be of interest to be measured across the housing statistics landscape. The initial experimental version of which is now available on the housing and planning statistics webpage.
  • The ONS published the 2016-based household projections for England in September, introducing a new methodology to improve transparency and efficiency and account for more up-to-date figures about living arrangements. The ONS also published an article comparing household projections for England with other data sources, to help users understand the differences between data sources about households and planning.

 

The CGHSG has also been engaging with the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (CaCHE) to identify ways in which we can work together to improve housing statistics. Further information on the work CaCHE are taking forward can be found on their website.

Over the next few months, the CGHSG will continue to take forward the work detailed in our action plan, culminating in the publication of the PRS topic report in late 2018. This is just the start of the work for this group, with further housing topics to be considered in due course, such as affordable housing and homelessness. We will also be looking to improve engagement with users and more details around these plans will be published over the next few weeks. However, we would welcome and encourage any user feedback relating to either the content of this blog, or the wider housing statistics that are published. Please contact us via the following email tony.wilkins@ons.gov.uk .

Chris Jenkins and the CGHSG