International Centre for Housing and Urban Economics (ICHUE)


The Centre aims to apply modern economic theory and quantitative techniques to the analysis of housing and related policy problems at international, national, regional and local levels. Particular attention is paid to contemporary urban economic problems and the role that housing plays in contributing to solutions. The Centre has two co-Directors - Dr Nygaard and Prof Ball.

Members of ICHUE

ICHUE is a collaborative venture between the spatial economists at the University of Reading, (primarily located in the Department of Economics and the School of Real Estate and Planning), and the AHURI Centre at RMIT University in Melbourne.

University of Reading ICHUE members:

RMIT University ICHUE members:

The centre also consists of the following associate members:

  • Dr Ellie Francis-Brophy
  • Jorge Alberto TorresVallejo

Yehui Wang is completing a PhD under the supervision of Professor Geof Meen.

Esra KarapinarKocag is completing a PhD under the co-supervisoon of Dr Nygaard.

The RMIT team is led by Professor Gavin Wood. Geoff Meen also holds an Adjunct Professorship at RMIT and both Ball and Meen are members of the AHURI Editorial Board. The team also works closely with housing and urban economists at other Universities, notably with the University of Glasgow and with government, particularly through the Department of Communities and Local Government. The team was responsible for the development of the DCLG Affordability model, which arose out of the Barker Review of Housing Supply.

The Work of the Centre

The Centre aims to encourage international collaborative work in order to generate first-class research and to disseminate best-practice techniques and policy initiatives.

Its work is primarily theory-informed quantitative analysis. Despite inevitable uncertainties surrounding quantitative studies, the Centre's view is that application of housing and urban economics in the policy domain has often lacked empirical rigour. Not all issues are amenable to rigorous econometric analysis but the Centre still commits itself to using best practice techniques in these fields.

The housing literature typically looks at the international, national, regional and local levels independently. The Centre encourages the development of integrated frameworks for studying housing questions at different scales.

Much policy involves institutional and organisational change and, at present, little research in housing and related areas is based on the economics of institutions and organisations. The work of the centre provides theoretical and empirical outputs to inform such areas of policy debate.

Current Projects

Research in the Centre at the UK end is taking a number of directions:

The analysis of long-run urban change: this project conducts time-series analysis on the changing structure of major cities since the mid-19th century, developing novel techniques and data sets. Currently the three cities are London (Meen and Nygaard), Melbourne (a team led by Wood) and Glasgow (Professor Kenneth Gibb, University of Glasgow). A further direction (Nygaard) of this reserach is on cumulative causation in urban development and, in particular, the role of locational/exogenous factors in shaping within-city development and patterns of social structures. While the importance of this perspective has been recognised for some time (and is common in between-city economic geography analysis), there is a lack of empirical analysis due to the frequently perceived hard-to-measure nature of variables/concepts at this finer spatial scale. An aim for this research is therefore to develop the conceptual, empirical and theoretical basis for within-city variation in social structures.

International migration: this consists of three parts. The first (led by Meen) takes a historical approach to examining the persistence of local spatial patterns of migrants arriving from different countries. So far analysis has concentrated on London, although there are plans to extend the work to a wider range of cities. The second part (Nygaard and Francis-Brophy) examines the effects of migrant communities on social cohesion, particularly concentrating on the Slough area. The third part (Nygaard) analyses and describes the impact of international migration on labour market and skills availibility in the South East.

Housing volatility: given the importance of this issue to the Global Financial Crisis, this programme is developing new techniques, using Agent Based Models, which are a particularly valuable way of modelling volatility (Meen). Other parts of the programme are examining household mortgage debt behaviour after the crash (Burrows, Wang) and intergenerational differences in access to home ownership (Meen).


1 Dec 2015 International Migration: Skills and Skilful Policy?

This seminar is organised jointly with the Research Centre for the Study of Developing Economies and Emerging Markets (DEEM) and the South East Strategic Partnership for Migration (SESPM). The 'Skills and Skilful Policy?' seminar brings together researchers, practitioners and local government officials for debate on international migration's role in and impact on local labour markets and communities. International migrants are an important part of labour supply and skills availability in the UK. At the same time skilful policy is required at national and local levels to enhance benefits, spread benefits more widely and mitigate impacts on neighbourhoods and communities. The seminar explores these issues through presentations and discussions. Download  flier for further details.


ICHUE hosts the Thames Valley Strategic Partnership for Migration (March 2017)

The TVSPM is a strategic forum that brings together cross sector partners (law and order, local authorities and a range of voluntary sector organisations) and stakeholders in the Thames Valley. The TVSPM identifies local migration impacts and feeds into the South East Strategic Partnership for Migration.

INVITED PRESENTATION: Dr Nygaard gives a seminar on urbanisation and persistence of spatial inequality at the Beijing Institute for Technology (November 2016)

Cities are frequently characterised as engines of growth with urbanisation linked to economic development. Positive externalities and agglomeration economies are key to urban productivity, while negative externalities and diseconomies reduce productivity and liveability. In this presentation persistence of spatial inequality is discussed with implication for Chinese urbanisation and (future) urban productivity.

Interview with Professor Meen on ABC Radio National's Breakfast, Australia (July 2016)

Professor Meen was interviewed on ABC Radio National following a public lecture at the University of Sydney's Festival of Urbanism. The interview focused on housing affordability and declining homeownership rates in Australia and the UK. Further details and the interview are available from .

House of Lords Economics Affairs Committee on economics of the UK housing market reports (July 2016)

Professor Geoff Meen acted in the capacity of Special Adviser to the House of Lords Economics Affairs Committee on the economics of the UK housing market that reported on 15 July 2016.
The report can be downloaded from .

BOOK PUBLICATION: 'Housing Economics - a historical approach' by Geoff Meen, Christian Nygaard et al. (June 2016)

The history of housing shows long-run social progress, littered with major disasters; nevertheless the progress is often forgotten, whilst the difficulties hit the headlines. Housing Economics provides a long-term economic perspective on macro and urban housing issues, from the Victorian era onwards. Details on how to obtain the book from publisher Palgrave Macmillan can be obtained .


INVITED PRESENTATION: Dr Nygaard gives seminar on geology and the emergence of modern neighbourhood at RMIT's Centre for Urban Research (March 2016)

Housing markets and urban structures are the result of a complex interplay of economic, social and political factors. The presentation hypothesises that if geology and topology historically gave rise to systematic variation in patterns of land use and neighbourhood characteristics, then modern property prices and social structures may continue to reflect the geological foundations of cities. Details can be obtained by contacting Dr Nygaard. 


Professor Meen appointed Specialist Advisor to House of Lords Economics Affairs Committee (November 2015)

On 3 November 2015 it was announced that the House of Lords Economics Affairs Committee would launch an inquiry into the economics of the UK housing market. Professor Geoff Meen was appointed Specialist Adviser. Details available .

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