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August 15, 2019

Joe Ball

Our plan to drive behavioural change among landlords in the private rented sector

For people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, accessing (or maintaining) a tenancy in the private rented sector (PRS) can be an uphill battle. Landlords literally hold the keys to the PRS, which is becoming an increasingly important part of the housing system. The decisions landlords make are vital. In a recent survey, 52% of landlords reported that they would be unwilling to let to tenants in receipt of housing benefit (English Private Landlord Survey 2018). Even a small increase in the proportion of landlords willing to accept people at risk could increase housing availability and help to reduce levels of homelessness.

That opportunity, and others like it, is why the Centre is joining forces with the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT). Our joint agenda is to improve the effectiveness of homelessness interventions by applying - and rigorously evaluating - behavioural science methods.

BIT work in partnership with governments, local authorities, businesses and charities to tackle major policy problems and improve communities and lives, typically by using empirical methods. Some examples of BIT’s work include:

  • Increasing urgent referrals for cancer treatment - by testing the impact of telling GPs how their cancer treatment referral decisions compared with local colleagues, urgent referral rates increased by 10%.
  • Improving public understanding of economics - by testing four behavioural science informed versions of a Bank of England report with members of the public, comprehension scores were increased by over 40% compared to the regular report.
  • Tackling teacher shortages in rural areas - removing some of the ‘friction’ in the application process, adding timely prompts and extra information led to three times as many trainee teachers applying to work in rural schools.

As a member of the What Works Network, CHI is dedicated to introducing new empirical methods to homelessness. This will help us develop a much better understanding of what works, for whom, where.

Our evidence tools highlighted a lack of causal evidence on the impact of homelessness interventions. By working with a partner such as BIT, with deep expertise in behaviour science and impact evaluations — methods that have helped maximise positive impact in other social policy fields — we know the same is possible in homelessness.

Our first collaboration aims to increase the proportion of landlords willing to accept (or maintain) people on housing benefit. One of CHI’s programme themes is ‘Creating a Housing System that Leaves No One Behind’ — the ‘H’ in the SHARE framework — and our maps indicated we don’t know enough about this issue, while the research priorities co-creation workshops identified it as a priority.

We are currently scoping out the work and are looking for local authorities or other organisations to partner with. If you work on housing for a local authority/other organisations and are interested in finding out more please get in touch with us. We’re excited about the potential for positive impact and look forward to working to sharing and our learnings from the process along the way. The final analysis and reporting will be completed in Spring 2020. 

The landlord trials are the first in what we hope will be an ongoing relationship. Over the next few years, we intend to run trials across the points in the homelessness system where better evidence could have the most impact. 

If you’re interested in hearing more, please get in touch with ben@homelessnessimpact.org and info@bi.team.


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