Impact and outcomes

It’s hard to keep up with this blogging thing. It’s been months since I managed to get fingers to keyboard to pontificate on the world of strategic housing. I apologise.

December was an exciting month for the IDeA Strategic Housing programme. We finally published our second skills and capacity audit which looks at the improvement in the sector over the past year in relation to strategic housing. Alongside, that, I did some internal reporting looking at how many authorities we have worked with and in what capacity to see if there were correlations. And….. And pat on back to us, there are! The programme has been rather successful (even if I do say so myself).

Measuring the impact of improvement work is always tough. In the audit we asked officers, members and Chief Executives about their PERCEPTIONS on their levels of improvement over the past year and they told us all sorts of really positive things. Things like:

  • Overall, the ability of local authorities to both understand and deliver  the Strategic Housing role has improved 
  • Strategic Housing has a more corporate role than a year ago with 96% of CEX’s saying that housing is a key corporate priority
  • Strategic Housing’s relationship with planning has improved by 6% (from an already high base)
  • Internal and external partnership arrangements have improved by an average of 11%
  • The effectiveness of partnership working with community and resident groups has improved 15% 

We also worked with 330 authorities and delivered 127 pieces of individual support work, 4 different types of training courses, 6 member leadership academies and a number of conferences and events. Phew!

So, it all sounds like really good news but these are still people’s perceptions and the perceptions of people doing the job. What really fascinates me is how do we compare this to actual on-the-ground improvements? Do we measure the number of new builds? Hmm, not sure that is a good measure at the moment. Do we look to see if housing waiting lists have gone down? Again, would this tell us anything? Do we measure KPIs, NIs, inspection data, what? I think it is really hard to measure improvements in strategic housing delivery as the real measurements are in how the delivery of housing, in all its guises, improves the lives of the people who live in it.

Outcomes! That’s what we are talking about. Measuring outcomes. Looking more at life chance measures than actual housing measures. So, perhaps a measure of whether or not an authority has delivered a good strategic housing function would be to see if education attainment rates are improving, or perhaps whether there are linked improvements in the local economy or if average local wages have increased?

Earlier this week, I ran a member event (I wont say where) and was stressing the importance of the links between housing and pretty much everything else. The Portfolio holder for Children’s Services was there and he said “I stopped reading housing stuff a few years back as housing always produces thick documents but actually I can see how I need to know what’s going on and how housing can impact on young people”.  Breakthrough!

It really is about making these links and understanding that just measuring the amount of housing built, how good your partnerships are or whether the numbers on your waiting list are decreasing isn’t good enough. Taking a long term view, understanding how housing impacts on your vision for your place and being able to articulate the role housing has played in those improvements is what it is all about.

I realise this is rather housingy on a planning blog but I sense that measuring the outcomes of good planning is just as hard. This must be particularly true at the moment when the number of planning applications has dropped off. Does this offer some head space to get around the thinking on how to measure the outcomes of your planning decsions?


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