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Home is where the data is

We are regularly told that new homes are being built (or not) but how much do we really know about housing projects as they are delivered? The planning process still relies on a lot of paperwork and manual labour, from the first stages of planning and approval right through to confirming that homes have been completed. When Future Cities Catapult launched the Future Of Planning programme, they set out to explore and evaluate the need for digital innovation in the planning process with the ultimate aim of supporting the development of solutions that benefit local authorities, planners, and citizens alike.

A new collaborative project between ODI Leeds and Future Cities Catapult will look at the potential for using open data to verify housing completion. Usually the final stage in the planning process, confirming that a house has been built is often still done with a physical site visit. This practice varies between local authorities, with some dispatching a team of planning officers only once a year to count the local developments.

Why does this matter?

The first thing to notice is the amount of time and resources taken away from planners to count completed houses.This blog post from Tom Forth, Head of Data here at ODI Leeds, has a very tangible example (albeit controversial for some) of what happens when planners get on with their jobs more flats got built, prices stabilised, and flats became occupied. Having an efficient and accurate method of counting completed houses would also allow for greater scrutiny in the planning process. We could identify where things aren't working or where things are going missing, and then ask why? As important as finding the problems, accurate housing numbers can help as find the successes too. If an area experiences growth due to a new housing development, that is something worth exploring further.

What is this project all about?

This project is part of a development for a tool that can monitor the delivery of housing projects from start to finish, covering planning, approval, projects started, completion, and occupied. Our contribution will look at the completion stage of planning, where open data from various sources will be used to create a confidence level that a building project has indeed been completed.

How you can get involved

One of the first aspects of this project is to collect and evaluate all of the potential datasets that could be used. We already know that Leeds City Council are publishing some comprehensive datasets about housing and planning. Which other local authorities are also publishing really good housing data? Are there some closed datasets that would be useful for this housing completion tool? Which organisations have the data and should be involved?

If you have some suggested datasets or organisations for us to reach out to, pop them all down on this Google Doc or tweet us.