‘How can Geoinformatics help with Reducing Risks and Enhancing Effectiveness in Non-Profit Housing Provision’
The University of St Andrews has been awarded an interdiciplinary PhD Studentship co-funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and HOME Housing Association to commence at the latest on 1 January 2013. The project will use state of the art methods from geoinformatics and/or develop new spatial data analysis methods for an application in the social housing sector. Student will be jointly supervised by Professor Stewart Fotheringham, Centre for Geoinformatics, and Professor Duncan Maclennan, Centre for Housing Research and Professor Stewart Fotheringham, at the University of St Andrews, in collaboration with HOME.
Enquiries should be directed to Professor Stewart Fotheringham (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Application requirements and procedure
This is a studentship in geoinformatics with an application in housing and social policy. We do not necessarily expect candidates to have existing knowledge about housing AND spatial analysis simultaneously (although this of course would be desirable), however, spatial analysis skills and preferably some knowledge of programming are preferable.
We invite suitably qualified candidates to apply by 23 November 2012. Note that this is a ‘+3’ award, therefore is only open to candidates with a relevant masters degree.
Please check that you meet the ESRC’s eligibility criteria before applying (see http://www.socsciscotland.ac.uk/faq)
Candidates should apply online to the University of St Andrews (http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/media/ApplicationForm-PostgraduateResearch.pdf) and copy to Professor Stewart Fotheringham (email@example.com).
Candidates are required to complete ESRC’s Equal Opportunities Monitoring form (available at http://www.socsciscotland.ac.uk/studentships/esrc_studentships), which should be submitted as part of the application.
We expect applications to include:
- Covering letter explaining why you wish to undertake this doctoral research
- Research proposal (expanding on the Project Outline below, including ideas of your own)
- Two academic references
The decade 1998-2008 in the UK saw a significant expansion in the provision of affordable housing, mostly rented and delivered through Housing Associations. Growth was primarily driven by expanding budgets for capital grants, but with a lot of rental income underpinned by Housing Benefit payments. Housing policy changes since 2009 are set to sharply reduce housing capital budgets. At the same time welfare reforms involving Housing Benefit are likely to reduce this income stream. In addition, from October 2013 Housing Benefit will be paid directly to households rather than to landlords and there is a concern that this may raise arrears rates. Wider reforms to disability benefits are likely to adversely affect the incomes of up to a million households in the UK, the majority of whom live in the social rented housing sectors.
Grant reductions and changes to Housing Benefit are creating a new riskier context for investment and management by non-profits. Reduced certainty about receipt of housing and other benefits means that non-profits face new challenges in assessing the sustainable rent paying capacity of households that are considering for tenancies. This presents twin challenges for, firstly, delivering ‘housing plus’ (such as neighbourhood renewal, community cohesion and social inclusion – all favoured in ‘Big Society’ initiatives) and, secondly, for managing financial risk in the Housing Association sector. For Home HA this means improving the targeting, delivery and effectiveness (outcomes) of general needs and supported housing interventions.
Within that unfolding context for the non-profit sector in general and HOME in particular, issues emerge in relation to ways in which emerging developments in the organisation, visualisation and analysis of place-based information systems can be used to reduce organisational risks and raise management effectiveness. The question for Home is how to best use information about places and people to improve the outcomes for housing service delivery. The potential of geoinformatics in being able to help deliver intelligent solutions to place-based problems such as these is increasingly being recognised.
Project Aims and Research Questions
The project aims to develop new spatial data analysis methods to address the questions posed in the above application context. These methods should cover both a theoretical approach, such as for example, introducing a new appropriate spatio-temporal statistical, data analysis and/or visualisation methods for tracking occupation and analysing changes in housing in general, as well as specific implementations to use available housing data in Scottish context. The student will be advised in terms of method development by Prof Fotheringham and his colleagues at the Centre for Geoinformatics (where the post will be physically located).
In terms of data available, the student will work closely with Prof Maclennan at the Centre for Housing Research at St Andrews and use both commercially available place-based information systems, such as CACI, and the individual-based, fine-grain, and spatially referenced CORE (Continuous Recording of Tenants Incomes), SCORE (the Scottish equivalent of CORE and Supporting People databases. These databases are the key tracking devices, for people and support, in social housing for Scotland and England and they were all developed by CHR at St Andrews.
Geoinformatics methods for the above data will be developed specifically to answer the following questions:
- How are housing and welfare reform policies reshaping the decision contexts for non-profit providers of housing?
- What are the implications of devolution, localism and ‘big society’ initiatives for non-profit providers?
- What is the best way to describe the operational geography of the non-profit housing sector, and this would include novel approaches to identifying the structures of the sector within chosen regions and metropolitan areas as well as the ways in which HOME HA fitted into these structures?
- How is the client group of households changing over place and time as new policy measures ‘bite’?
- How are rent arrears, mobility and turnover are affected by change?
The student will be expected to develop the new methodology in close consultations of the users of housing data and in an iterative process alternating with steps of method development.
The University-based supervisors will be Professor Stewart Fotheringham and Professor Duncan Maclennan (they are, respectively, internationally renowned experts in geoinformatics and housing system analysis). The student will be shared between the Centre for GeoInformatics (CGI, Directed by Fotheringham) and the Centre for Housing Research (CHR, Directed by Maclennan). Both research centres are located within the Department of Geography and Sustainable Development, School of Geography & Geosciences, University of St Andrews. The HOME Housing Association will also be closely involved the project, including, at two-monthly intervals, a formal joint supervision with the Director of Strategy at HOME.
CGI is an internationally-renown research centre in the area of geoinformatics. Its interests lie in the capture, processing, visualization and analysis of spatial data. It is highly research active and has strong linkages to other research groups around the university, especially to Computer Science (e.g. St Andrews Computer-Human Interaction Research Group) and other research centres (e.g. Centre for Housing Research, Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling, etc.). The student will also be linked to CGI’s extensive international network.
CHR has a strong reputation for its work in knowledge mobilisation and co-production. The research student will be connected to a the wide network of international collaborations with housing non-profits and housing policy specialists that CHR runs. Within the context of this particular project, CHR plans to in the spring of 2013, organise a round table on policy developments and the non-profit sector with a summary paper contributed by the research student. Towards the end of 2013 we would organise a second seminar on using geoinformatics methods in the non-profit housing sector, again with a paper contributed from this project. Towards the end of the three years we would liaise with HOME on the best ways to showcase the results of the studentship.