90 delegates attended this year’s Wales Housing Research Conference, co-hosted by Shelter Cymru, Welsh Government and the WISERD Wales Housing Research Network. The event took place at Cardiff University’s Bute building and Glamorgan building.
Delegates were invited to attend a variety of sessions, with themes including housing policy and devolution, health and wellbeing, the Welsh homelessness service, vulnerable groups, and the private rented sector. The diversity of topics highlighted how significantly the study of housing crosses over into other areas of research. This was emphasised by Mr Ceri Breeze of the Welsh Government, who updated delegates on housing policy developments and highlighted the need for more research which cuts across policy areas to inform more integrated public services.
Shelter Cymru launched their Welsh homelessness legislation report, ‘Reasonable Steps: Experiences of Homelessness Services Under the Housing (Wales) Act 2014’. Peer Researcher, Mr Alex Osmond, shared his own experiences of homelessness services, as well as his findings on those of other service users. Alongside the legislative changes is a Welsh government-led drive to create a more person-centred service culture and a system that’s more effective at prevention, by intervening earlier and addressing the root causes of people’s homelessness.
Discussions weren’t limited to Wales – how housing policy and the private rented sector is developing in other areas of the UK was a recurring theme of the day. Professor Kenneth Gibb, University of Glasgow, provided an insight into housing policy in a devolved Scotland and raised the question of whether they are experiencing constrained autonomy or opportunity. Mr Steffan Evans, PHD student, Cardiff University, shared his findings on how social housing regulation differs between Wales and England.
Themes explored towards the end of the day took a more ontological approach, with presenters considering how housing contributes towards health and wellbeing. Dr Jennifer Hoolachan, Cardiff University talked about ‘The Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016’ and its implications for private renters. As part of this discussion, she raised the important distinction between ‘home’ and ‘housing’, emphasising that these are not the same thing.
Dr Peter Mackie, Senior Lecturer, Cardiff University School of Geography and Planning, said: ‘The Wales Housing Research Conference 2016 provided a unique opportunity for academics, national and local government officials, and third sector agencies to collectively explore some of the most pressing housing issues in Wales. Events like this are rare. We have developed a wonderful collaborative approach to understanding and acting on housing issues in Wales and we expect to see future action on some of the key issues discussed at the event, including; homelessness, affordable housing supply, and conditions in the private rented sector.’