From 1998 the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research (formerly the Property Research Unit) at Cambridge University were funded to undertake an on-going research programme on behalf of the TSA (then Housing Corporation) which has aimed to ensure that the data returned in the Regulatory and Statistical Return (RSR) were not only accurate but also appropriate to both the operational realities of housing associations and the needs of the regulator. This on-going series of research projects became known more widely as the Definitions of Ownership project. Whilst each phase had its own distinct aims and objectives, each has built on the findings of previous phases. As a result of Phases I to III, a new look RSR that takes a different approach to data collection had been designed, tested and adopted by the TSA, to take effect from 2002 when each individual housing association would be required to complete it. Nevertheless, the project remained on-going. In the fourth phase of the research the focus switched specifically to housing association group structures and developing an overarching Group RSR.
Whilst there have been a wider range of publications that have focused on housing association group structures, the vast majority had been concerned with groups from an accounting or constitutional perspective. At the same time the TSA's approach to groups had been piecemeal and reflected the same business and good practice perspective. Consequently, it was necessary for this project to find solutions, in an RSR context, to a number of outstanding conceptual issues.