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How we listened to users to improve housing and planning statistics

Natasha Bance

Housing statistics are central to government and are developed across many government departments as well as the devolved administrations. The statistics are used for developing policy on topics such as social housing stock, homelessness and housebuilding. They are very important and have far reaching impacts.

In 2017, the Office for Statistics Regulation published a cross-government review of housing statistics. The review kick started cross-government work which brought together statistics providers to understand how we can improve housing statistics.

Debra Prestwood has spoken about how important it is for us to work with users. User engagement is also a key part of the housing and planning statistics workplan.

Our user engagement survey

In April 2019, we conducted an online survey to ask users for their thoughts on housing statistics. The survey was open for eight weeks and gave respondents the opportunity to provide detailed feedback. The cross-GSS network of statistics producers all assisted in promoting the survey both on their social media and through other channels.

The survey received 140 responses. The largest number of respondents were from local authorities and there was a good split of responses across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

What did our survey tell us?

  • Respondents were interested in all housing and planning topic areas but expressed particular interest in housing affordability and housebuilding statistics.
  • 27 respondents were interested in statistics which describe the UK as a whole and they came from a range of user groups – including researchers, academics, local authorities, and central government.
  • Different respondents were interested in statistics at different geographic levels, with local authority level being the most popular.
  • Outside of official statistics, we asked users where else they got data on housing and planning and the most common places were local authorities’ datasets and commercial datasets.
  • 52 respondents were either satisfied or very satisfied with official housing and planning statistics, while 13 respondents were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.

From the responses, we identified these common themes for improvement:

  • geography – produce statistics at lower levels of geography
  • methodology – use consistent definitions across departments
  • accessibility – make statistics easier to find and use

The large number of responses and good coverage reflected the joined up and strategic approach to promoting the survey by the cross-GSS network of statistics producers.

What we’re doing now

We’re now working with producer departments to continue to analyse the survey results further. We received over 15,000 words of free text responses and we are very pleased with this response. However it will take some time to consider them all.

We’ll use this feedback to prioritise the work we do in the future. We’ll continue to manage the tension between using our limited resources to support the analytical requirements of the devolved administrations and individual departments and our collaborative work to improve housing and planning statistics.

If you would like to know more about our work on housing and planning statistics please contact us at

Esther Sutherland and Ian Boreham
Natasha Bance
Esther is a Social Research Fast Streamer at the Cabinet Office working alongside the GSS Strategy Delivery division. Ian is a statistician working for the Office for National Statistics in the GSS Strategy Delivery division.