Housing, homelessness and planning statistics

High quality statistics on housing, homelessness and planning are vital for the UK. Are we building enough houses to sustain our growing population? Can I afford a home in my local area? How many people are homeless and what factors influence this? All are major questions for policy makers, the housing sector and private citizens.

Housing and homelessness are a devolved policy area across the four nations of the UK. Currently, more than twenty different departments and public bodies publish such statistics. This means that finding the right statistics for the right area can be time-consuming. This also means that, for any given topic area, statistics are not always comparable between UK countries.

We, as statisticians from across the Government Statistical Service (GSS), have been working together to try to change this for the better. Our ambitious goal has been to improve the coherence of housing and homelessness statistics by putting the needs of users first. This inclusive approach has, in turn, laid the foundations for sustainable continuous improvement.

We are collaborating across government in five key areas:

  • to improve coherence by building a landscape of housing, homelessness and planning statistics
  • to improve quality and coverage of existing statistics, including researching new data sources
  • to harmonise data definitions where there is a clear user need, while balancing costs and potential burdens
  • to improve the accessibility of data by creating a single access point to find official housing, homelessness, and planning statistics
  • to be inclusive and put you, the user, at the heart of the system by engaging to identify topics of interest from across the UK

You can find out more about what we are working on by exploring our housing and planning work-plan or homelessness and rough sleeping work-plan.

The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) called attention to our successes in their recent two-year update review of UK housing and planning statistics. The success of our approach has led to its adoption for other topic areas, such as: adult social care, health and care, and income and earnings.

Improving coherence

Many public bodies produce housing, homelessness and planning statistics. These bodies collect statistics in different ways for different purposes due to different laws enacted across the UK. This can lead to the statistics being incomparable between bodies and UK countries.

To help users, statistics producers are linking to other relevant statistics to other relevant statistics to a greater degree. Where possible, these include guidance on how definitions differ between countries, such as in the Homelessness in Scotland publication.

We have published several articles bringing together a range of statistics from across the UK, on areas such as:

These build a thorough picture of the available data and how the data compares across the UK.

We have also launched a series of interactive tools around housing and planning statistics in the UK. These tools let you:

  • understand the different topic areas found within housing and planning statistics
  • explore all available housing and planning statistics from across the UK

These tools complement existing publication platforms by providing a single access point to UK data.

We have been working with the Centre for Homelessness Impact (CHI) to develop the SHARE platform. SHARE displays indicators for homelessness outcomes as well as factors that could lead to homelessness. SHARE provides evidence of potential early signs of homelessness that can help policy makers, local authorities and charities

Improving quality

Across the GSS there is a culture of continual improvements to quality in sustainable ways, such as through:

  • better presentation of data
  • greater detail of data

On occasion, producers can make more radical changes to fill data gaps. These improvements are often based on user engagement or regulatory work on housing from the OSR. An example of this is the introduction of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s (MHCLG) Homelessness Case Level Collection (H-CLIC) statistics.

We have responded to public interest by:

To help in the UK’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, the GSS has been working to share knowledge and experience between UK public bodies. For example, using management information on emergency homelessness and rough sleeping accommodation has helped to give an early estimate of the deaths of homeless people due to coronavirus.

We have also been exploring radical new measures of housing affordability. These include:

  • the effect on different household incomes and house price distributions
  • new estimates, such as the upfront costs involved with buying a property, mortgage repayments, and private rental affordability

We are continuing our ambitious housing statistics improvement plans, with projects looking at:

  • data-linking
  • quality assuring administrative data (QAAD)
  • streamlining data entry pipelines

These projects will help to produce more accurate statistics at a faster pace. This will also increase the re-usability and sustainability of the data we collect.

Improving harmonisation

UK statistics producers are looking to improve the harmonisation of housing, homelessness and planning statistics. Devolution has led to differences in legal and administrative definitions across the four countries of the UK.

Definitions of homelessness vary across the UK and there is a need for more guidance on how comparable the statistics are. As part of our work to improve understanding of the comparability of homelessness statistics:

Improving accessibility

There is a vast amount of official statistics and data available on housing, homelessness and planning. These statistics are published on different websites and it can sometimes be hard to find the right source.

We have launched an interactive housing and planning statistics tool. This tool improves the accessibility of data by helping you explore the landscape of housing statistics. You can also search a database of official housing, homelessness and planning statistics.

Most statistics are currently published in a spreadsheet format. We have ambitious plans to make more data available in open data formats. This will simplify how we combine and compare different data sets. The Connected Open Government Statistics (COGS) project is piloting this data approach

To make geographical data easier to find, the Geospatial Commission has brought together over 350 housing and planning datasets and portals. They come from a variety of sources, with a variety of licences (many are of available under the Open Government License; OGL).

Improving user engagement

We are helping to bring users and producers of data closer together.

We have hosted, attended and presented at events across all four UK countries. At these events, we have heard about interesting ongoing research as well as frustrations you have over a lack of data or coherence. We have taken those on board and statistics producers have reacted. For example, we published estimates of the number of deaths of homeless people in England and Wales.

We ran a survey seeking views on the work we are doing. Our survey closed at the end of May 2019, and we shared the key findings in a blog post. We will continue to seek your views in a variety of ways.

We have published a user engagement statement, which sets out how we plan to improve our engagement with you and share best practice. Statistical producers can use this to help shape their own user engagement work.

We have published a homelessness improvements article that shows how analysts across the UK are working together. This enables policy and decision makers to have the statistics and evidence to support people when they need it the most.

We have been working with CHI and their networks. They are providing a robust challenge for us to improve the evidence base around homelessness statistics. This includes contributing to research networks and presenting at events to gather feedback on what we are doing well or not so well.

Contact us

Your feedback influences all our work on our key areas. It enables us to know where we should be focusing our time and resources when improving the statistical landscape.

If you think we can improve cross-UK housing, homelessness and planning statistics, then we would like to hear from you. You can contact us through events, the Office for Statistics Regulation, or by emailing us at: gss.housing@ons.gov.uk.

This page was last updated on: 21 September 2020