Wellbeing and Tenure – does home ownership really add up for social tenants?

Project leads: Professor Andy Lymer and Dr James Gregory

This innovative CHASM project, conducted for VIVID Housing, with colleagues from the University of Manchester, is the first time that a comparison has been made for different housing tenures and measures of wellbeing using a bespoke survey and follow-up interviews. 

The full report, which was published early in 2018, provides insights that haven’t otherwise been known from previous research.

The summary of our findings were launched at an event in Southampton for Vivid in December 2017, and the full findings and policy conclusions were presented at the Chartered Institute of Housing’s Fringe Brighton conference in March. 

Research objectives

To explore the following questions:

  • Can homeownership have a positive impact on the financial wellbeing of (former) social tenants, and how does the financial situation and wellbeing of social renters compare to other tenures?
  • In what ways does ownership shape the experiences and attitudes of owner-occupiers, and do owners view social housing (and social tenants) negatively, as an inferior tenure?
  • Are the positive benefits of homeownership an intrinsic feature of ownership alone, or could the benefits be replicable for social (and private) renters?

Research team

  • Dr James Gregory, University of Birmingham
  • Professor Andy Lymer, University of Birmingham
  • Professor Susanne Espenlaub, University of Manchester
  • Professor Arif Khurshed, University of Manchester
  • Mohamed Abdul, Loughborough University

Partners and sponsors

VIVID Housing Association – £28,000

Outputs and impact

Our results show that social housing has a positive impact on wellbeing, most notably in terms of anxiety, with social renters in our survey being 7% less likely to be anxious than those in other tenures. We also found that, once a range of factors are controlled for, social tenants are just as likely to find life worthwhile than those in other tenures. Yet these positive results still leave us with several challenges, both for policy and for research; our results also show that social tenants are less likely to be satisfied with life, as well as less likely to respond positively when asked about their experiences of the home they live in.

We also found, in 30 follow-up interviews, a sense of dissatisfaction with the home can be based upon a deeper dissatisfaction with the neighbourhood in which the home is embedded. These findings present a key challenge for social landlords and housing policy-makers. But there are also key research challenges highlighted by our survey results and follow-up interviews. Whist our survey received many responses from those who owned or part-owned their home, these responses do not necessarily represent all owner-occupiers, in part because of the relatively low-income of many respondents and in part because of they all come from one region (the South East).

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