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by Dr Halima Sacranie – HCRG Group Lead  

The Housing and Communities Research Group was established within the School of Social Policy in October 2014 and, led by Professor David Mullins, has undertaken leading edge research and teaching as part of the School of Social Policy at the University of Birmingham.

Housing and Communities has long been a key area of interest of research and teaching at the University of Birmingham, both in the School of Social Policy, and building on the 40 year tradition of housing research in the Centre for Urban and Regional Studies. Housing research is also an important arena for current policy and practice challenges in relation to housing policy, welfare reform, third sector and hybrid housing models, homelessness, housing supply, financial inclusion, Localism, and the role of community-led housing. Research and knowledge transfer on these topics plays a key role in the University's civic engagement agenda.

With Professor David Mullins (still very active!) retirement and transition to Emeritus Professor, I am delighted to take on the role of the HCRG lead, and also delighted that HCRG group will be joining CHASM, under the directorship of Professor Andy Lymer. There are numerous overlapping research interests and synergies between CHASM and HCRG and indeed a number of Research Fellows who are members of both. This is an exciting opportunity for HCRG to be affiliated to a larger and established research centre within the College.

Professor Andy Lymer said, ‘we will be bringing together our research focus across our two research groups to develop something really exciting out of our common areas of interest. Housing features heavily in the work CHASM does on personal and family finances, including recent work we have been undertaking with various Registered Social Landlords on the links between housing tenure and wellbeing. This fit therefore will be a very effective and natural one we believe’.

We have just had the great news that CHASM and HCRG have been successful in a project bid led by Prof Vincent Gruis at the University of Delft called CHARM: Circular Housing Asset Renovation & Management. This 4 year InterregNWE funded project, worth nearly 7 million Euros, focusses on implementing principles of a circular economy in the asset management of social housing organisations to prevent downcycling of construction materials. This project involves social housing organisations from 4 countries in the InterregNWE region (Belgium, France, the Netherlands, United Kingdom), in co-creation with supply chain partners and knowledge institutes.

Andy and I will be managing and supporting the West Midlands case study partners, housing association Accord and SHAP, in the development of circular procurement guidelines and evaluating the implementation of these procurement guidelines in their asset management, focussing in particular on their demonstration exemplars. We will also participate in the regional and contribute to network building and promotion to potential observer partners and industry gatekeepers in the UK.

Dissemination and network-building is a key part of HCRG activities. We have an excellent network of key stakeholders in the housing and communities sector and our well-established and popular Housing and Communities Research Network Seminars provide a unique opportunity for professionals and policy makers in the sector to meet with students and staff of the University to discuss current research. We aim to improve links and build an active research community, and improve awareness of our housing researchers across the University and with partners in the West Midlands, nationally and internationally to provide a stimulus for new research partnerships and collaborative writing.

If you are interested in finding out more about HCRG, we have two excellent seminars coming up:
“Importing Need?: West Midlands agency referrals into the non-commissioned supported accommodation.” and “Hare-brained schemes and crackpot ideas – Why they are worth considering.”