Changing research in social housing


HACT and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) launch a new report on the use of randomised control trials (RCTs) in driving evidence-based service design in the social housing sector.

"Research in the social housing sector has been changing in response to recent and emerging challenges," said Frances Harkin, Head of Research at HACT. "A progressive methodology at the forefront of this change is randomised control trials (RCTs), which offer the opportunity to assess service impact and deliver value for money in a more robust way.


Randomised control trials (RCTs) are a research methodology designed to test the relative effect of treatments on groups or populations, in order to investigate whether there is a cause-effect relationship between any given intervention and an outcome, and to quantify that effect.”

In 2017 we launched a project with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to raise the profile of RCTs in the housing sector, and their ability to drive evidence-based service design in that space. This report, entitled Changing research in social housing: the role of RCTs, outlines progress so far in the use of RCTs in the social housing sector. It provides guidance on when to use RCTs either as an alternative to, or in conjunction with, other research methodologies.”


“HACT has long championed the use of evidence and insight within the social housing sector,” added Rob Wray, HACT’s Chief Innovation Officer. “We have actively supported social housing organisations to measure the impact and effectiveness of their services and interventions, which has included the development and implementation of RCTs.

In 2014, we conducted an in-depth qualitative study into different approaches to tenancy sustainment in the social housing sector and how they operate. The research findings highlighted the sector’s lack of understanding about what works, and which approaches were most effective.”

Following this initial study, HACT convened a group of social housing providers to consider the value of using RCTs that would test the effectiveness of new and existing tenancy sustainment approaches and interventions. This report is the first of two that draw on learnings and insights from that project. Our second report will review these research initiatives in more detail.”

HACT is grateful to JRF for having support this project. As a social change organisation, JRF seeks to support the development of an evidence base around what works in the social housing sector, using these insights to recommend credible solutions that result in more people living in a decent, secure and affordable home.

If you’d like to find out more about the research you can get in touch with Frances Harkin at