Geoff Meen: helping the government fix the UK's housing market
Over the past two decades, the gap between incomes and house prices in England and Wales has widened significantly. And simply building more houses won't stabilise affordability; an integrated approach is needed if we're to fix Britain's broken housing market.
Professor Geoff Meen's research into housing markets looks at a number of social issues, of which housing affordability is just one. Since 2004, he has done work for the England Department for Communities and Local Government, and recently served as a specialist adviser on the House of Lords Economics Affairs Committee. Geoff is one of 69 leading social scientists to be conferred as a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. He is recognised as "a leading specialist in the economic and policy analysis of housing markets from the local to the national levels".
Using real-world insight to develop an academic approach
Geoff doesn't come from a traditional academic background. Before he joined the University he worked as a government and private sector economist. He became interested in housing issues through his work within HM Treasury and what was then the Department for the Environment.
When Geoff came to Reading, he wanted his academic research to be able to have a useful and meaningful impact on actual government policies. Because of his experience, he knew that government economists are always under immense time pressure to deliver their work, meaning they don't always have access to the best evidence base. Through his academic career, Geoff has been able to provide the government with the in-depth approach it needs to inform its work.
Helping the government make the right policy choices
In 2004, the government published the Barker Review of Housing Supply, which looked into the very same housing affordability problems the UK is still facing today. This report highlighted the need for detailed economic simulation models to examine possible policy solutions; the University of Reading's Department of Economics was commissioned to build this model.
Geoff was the leader of the team responsible for producing this model, which was used both within the DCLG and the now-dissolved National Housing and Planning Advice Unit as the basis for quantitative evidence advice. This was used by the Labour government until 2010, but the Department of Economics was recommissioned by the Conservative government to rebuild the model again in 2015.
The government's need for such a model is proof of the value that in-depth academic research has in addressing real-world problems.
Advising the House of Lords
Geoff served as a specialist adviser to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee from 2015-16. In his role, he contributed to the Economics of the United Kingdom housing market inquiry, which produced the July 2016 report, Building more homes.
“When working with government, I think the role of an [economics] academic is to provide the best possible policy advice to ministers and senior civil servants. It's not for us to say that such and such a policy should be enacted because there are a whole range of wider factors that politicians have to take into account which have absolutely nothing to do with economics.”
Want to study housing issues as part of your undergraduate degree?
There are two modules you can study during your undergraduate degree with us that take a closer look at housing issues. Our second-year module, "Economics of social policy" concentrates on how economic analysis can be applied to real-world problems, including housing. In your third year, you can choose our "Economics of land, development and planning" module. This is a more specialised module that you typically wouldn't get to study on economics courses at other universities.