It’s been two years now since we published our review of Housing and Planning statistics in the UK. Our review was extensive and proved to be a catalyst for positive change. So much in fact, that today, we have published a two-year update report which highlights the significant progress that has been achieved, the plans that are being put in place to do more, and provides a new focus on the areas where improvements are still needed.

We made recommendations across seven key areas which if addressed, would improve not just the statistical outputs themselves, but the ways that producers work together and the overall public value of the statistics. The topics of housing and planning are still of high public interest and good statistics for effective public policy and delivery are as essential as ever.

So what has changed in the last two years?

Statistics producers are working together more and aligning their outputs better

The creation of cross-government housing and planning and homelessness groups has increased engagement between the producer teams across the four UK countries and led to more joined-up and collaborative working. We are seeing better coherence across similar statistics, such as coordinated releases of statistics on high profile topics like homelessness and affordable housing.

There has been progress in filling the gaps

In our original report we highlighted that gaps existed in the current housing and planning statistics landscape. We can see that these are starting to be filled. New experimental statistics on homelessness, the number of people who have died whilst homeless, and plans for new statistics on private sector rent levels are welcome additions that provide insights that previously just weren’t there. We look forward to seeing this momentum continue so that existing gaps in UK private sector rent levels and UK land use statistics can also be addressed.

Statistics are being made easier to access and understand

We’ve seen good progress in improving the accessibility of housing and planning outputs using innovative approaches, including the newly released interactive housing and planning statistics landscape tool. This collaborative project has brought housing and planning statistics from all four UK countries into one place and grouped the statistics under understandable titles with brief explanations and allows users to filter and search.

Producers are engaging more with statistics users

In our review, we found there were limited ways for a wider range of users of housing and planning statistics to engage with government statisticians. Since then we have seen an increasingly broad range of coordinated user engagement activity happening across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the results of which are being used to help shape producers’ future plans and developments.

What’s next?

There are still a number of areas that we would like to see addressed, and for some of our original recommendations there is still some way to go.  These include filling gaps on UK private rental sector levels and land use, and the need for cross-government work to improve coherence on housing conditions and the quality of UK house building statistics, alongside the further development of UK homelessness and rough sleeping statistics.

We recognise that the GSS cross-government working groups are successfully coordinating and carrying forward a great deal of the required work and are encouraged by the updated cross-government housing and planning and homelessness work plans. We look forward to seeing updated plans for 2020/21 published in the coming months.

Our recent regulatory work has also identified specific areas where transparency could be, and in some cases, has been improved in the existing National Statistics on housing. We would like to see producers continue to evolve transparent ways of working to further support users’ confidence in the statistical production process, and so that users know how, and when to feed in their views into planned statistical developments.

We have also seen some improvements to quality – though we would like to see further work to assure users of producers own quality assurance processes, and to demonstrate an understanding of the quality assurance processes that their data suppliers undertake for statistics based on administrative sources. These essential aspects of data quality assurance will be highlighted through our future regulatory work, including our forthcoming compliance checks of the rough sleeping statistics produced by both the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Welsh Government.

We will continue to monitor the progress of the cross-government work and maintain regular contact with statisticians and stakeholders through our regulatory work, helping to ensure that housing and planning statistics are able to make a valuable contribution to public debate.