Housing through social enterprise

This research project aimed to examine the health and wellbeing impacts of different approaches to providing housing and working with tenants.

Previous research has demonstrated the damage to health that damp, mould and cold indoor temperatures can do, but relatively little is known about the impacts of less tangible aspects of housing.

This research is particularly important because of changes in the housing market in Glasgow (and across the UK) over the last 10-15 years. Across Scotland, the proportion of households in social rented accommodation has been in long term decline until very recently. Meanwhile, after three decades of growth, owner-occupation began to decline after the start of the recession in 2008. Because of this, the proportion of households in the private rented sector has more than doubled since the turn of the century, now accounting for 1 in 6 households. As a result, more low-income and vulnerable households are renting privately, often for many years. 

These changes make it important to understand how the different approaches of landlords or housing organisations might affect tenants’ health and wellbeing. This study followed 75 tenants, working with three different housing organisations, over the first year of their tenancy. Through face-to-face interviews, we asked them questions about their housing, their housing provider, their financial circumstances and their health and wellbeing.

Key findings

The research showed a number of ways in which the actions landlords, letting agencies and housing support organisations are important for tenants to be able to settle in to a new tenancy and make their house feel like home.

Four aspects are key:

  • Relationships - Tenants do better when they have a named person as their main contact at their housing provider, who respects and understands their individual needs, history and situation.
  • Property quality - Beyond the basics of a defect-free, efficient property, tenants need to be able to make their property feel like home. For some the ideal is an empty, blank canvas that they can customise. For others, it is much harder to make a home if the property is unfurnished and undecorated.
  • Affordability - Reasonable rent levels are important, but there are other financial factors at the start of a tenancy which can have a significant effect on tenants' wellbeing. Help dealing with benefits, utility costs, refurbishment expenses and arrears is key.
  • Neighbourhood - Tenants settle more easily into their property if they have as much choice as possible about where they live, to find the right property in the right place where they feel safe and, for some, close to family and friends.


More detail about the research findings and a set of recommendations for policy and practice, co-produced with housing and public health experts at a workshop in Feb 2019, are available.

The end of project report outlines the findings of the main research project can be found here. Read a blog about the research findings by researcher Steve Rolfe on The Conversation website.

There is also a set of recommendations for policy and practice (PDF) and a two-page summary (PDF) of the findings.

Watch a short animation about the research.

briefing paper that outlines the findings of the first, scoping phase of this study was published in 2017. 

Collaborative working

This project was delivered by the University of Stirling, in partnership with the Glasgow Centre for Population Health. It was part of the CommonHealth research programme, based at Glasgow Caledonian University and funded by the Medical Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council. Access more information about the CommonHealth project.

Related topic: Money and work