This project will examine the societal impact of algorithmic risk-profiling tools used by lenders and landlords.
Housing decisions are made with the help of algorithmic tools as a way for lenders and landlords to mitigate risk. Credit scoring in the mortgage market and automated tenant screening tools are increasingly commonplace. However, there is little understanding about the societal impact of these human-tech encounters. Questions have been raised over the construction of these technologies, whether they are understood by applicants or service users and if they embed bias into their decision making. Despite this lack of knowledge these tools have become further entrenched in our society and systems.
The research team will be addressing this knowledge gap by conducting the first UK examination of housing risk-profiling technologies. The project will be conducted in two phases:
Scoping the field by conducting a literature review and appraisal of available products. This will build upon existing research and utilise a variety of sources such as privacy policies, internet searches and academic literature.
Developing qualitative insight by building a dataset of 120 interviews. These will be conducted with a variety of stakeholders and will help build an understanding of risk-profiling tools.
The completion of the two phases of work will help to progress our understanding of how these tools are constructed, the motivation for their use, how they are used in the housing market, how users interact with them and any policy or practice implications.
Targeting a variety of different stakeholders will help the project have as big an impact as possible. Social housing providers, trade organisations, landlords, mortgage lenders, regulators, financial services and the general public will all be considered. Each stakeholder will receive a variety of outputs including reports, short articles, infographics, talking head videos and academic papers. These will be accompanied by engagement activities to ensure that the research findings contribute to the debate within policy and practice networks and ultimately achieve tangible change.
The partnership will be subject to an ongoing evaluation based on the RCDi framework. This will enable us to better understand the success of the network in improving research capacity.
Findings and Publications
Downloadable PDF version of the project's literature review is now available:
The first paper from our study (Automation hesitancy: confidence deficits, established limits and notional horizons in the application of algorithms within the private rental sector in the UK) is published in ICS and will form part of a Special Issue on Algorithmic Dwelling. It explores the drive towards the adoption of new digital data resources and automation in private sector tenant referencing tools, highlighting evident hesitancy in uptake and the centrality of people within these processes.
Professor David Beer summarises the paper in this Faculti video:
The project runs from January 2022 to December 2023
This blog for the Red Foundation outlines early findings from our research into the use of new data sources and automation relating to access to housing. Here we outline the use of Open Banking technology where prospective tenants are asked to give permission to access the transactions in their current account. We reflect on the issues this raises for accessing a home.
Algorithmic Dwelling Symposium
The Bristol and York Code Encounters team hosted the Algorithmic Dwelling Symposium in January 2023 at the University of York campus.
This highly successful day brought together a range of scholars working in this area, covering how data is produced, how we engage with algorithms in various life encounters and the potential and limitations of these data and technologies for housing and other services.
The following films provide a flavour of the excellent speakers' contributions to the symposium themes: