A Short History of the UKHR
30 years on, the UK Housing Review is as important as ever
The renowned UK Housing Review has been around for over 30 years now, and the document is more relevant and useful today than it’s ever been. Providing a yearly update on the key data and statistics impacting the housing industry, the Review is effectively a one-stop-shop for housing professionals to glean a deeper insight into the sector.
The Housing Finance Corporation (THFC) has been a proud sponsor of the Review since the 2019 edition, and it has been remarkable to see how this invaluable accumulation of knowledge has evolved over time to become the housing sector’s standard in terms of reliable housing-related information.
The Review was officially founded in 1993, driven by housing researcher Steve Wilcox and published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), with the support of its then Director, Lord Richard Best. But before that, in 1992, the ‘Housing Finance Review’ was written by Steve Wilcox and published by Cardiff University. This version, created in Wales, was very much the precursor to the document that is still published today. It had been inspired by the housing data compilation produced by John Newton for the Catholic Housing Aid Society (CHAS), titled ‘All in One Place: The British Housing Story 1971-1990’.
The enterprise represented by the Review has evolved over the years, appearing initially under different names but quickly becoming simply the UK Housing Review, and has been steered principally by two main bodies. The JRF published and paid for the Review until the 1999/2000 edition, which was a joint effort between the JRF, Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) and the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML). This arrangement continued until 2004/05 when the JRF withdrew, handing responsibility to CIH, on the basis that the sector ought to support the Review itself. It has continued to do so since then. From 2010 onwards, the main document has been complemented by an Autumn Briefing Paper, which gives an interim summary of key issues, and is backed by an updating of the Review’s huge Compendium of Tables, available online as well as in print.
Despite the changes, core contributors to the Review have remained somewhat consistent, with Steve Wilcox, John Perry, Peter Williams and Mark Stephens being the key writers. Steve Wilcox handed over responsibility for the important statistical database to Gill Young, now herself part of the core group. Along with a wide range of learned guest contributors, these have bolstered the Review’s reputation as the preeminent data collection and source of commentary for housing professionals.
The Review’s reputation has only grown over the years. It is seen as a trusted, consistent source of information, thanks to the enduring format and continuity in the group of researchers working on the project. Such is the Review’s reputation that is has provided the inspiration to be replicated internationally.
For example, it led to the creation of a publish series in the Czech Republic called ‘Housing Standards’, the first volume of which was produced in 2005. It is thought to have had a significant impact on Czech housing policy and formed the basis for mass media housing discussions in the country. A Welsh version of the Review was also produced for a short period, and a version for the Republic of Ireland is being actively discussed.
Fast forward to the 2023 edition of the Review, published in April of this year, and the document remains an indispensable product for housing stakeholders as they navigate the especially choppy waters in the housing sector today. Rising inflation, rent caps, political turmoil and higher interest rates represent the new and very real challenges social housing providers face in 2023. By having a comparable document that spans a 30-year period, housing professionals can better contextualise the sector as it stands today.
As we enter what is likely to be a period of sustained high interest rates, with added pressures relating to the net zero carbon agenda, the Review will be an essential tool in demonstrating just how much pressure the sector is under. Indeed, it could form the basis for which the social housing sector lobbies the government for the increased grant funding that it so desperately needs.
The collaborative approach taken to producing the Review is reflective of the collaborative nature of the wider sector, which is one of its great strengths.
THFC has stood by the Review since 2019 and hopes to continue supporting its evolution in the years ahead.