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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The theory and practice of conducting local housing needs studies : a framework for the assessment of housing need in Canadian cities Maass, Barbara Ellis

Abstract

The objective of this thesis is to provide a practical framework, to aid housing planners to conduct local housing needs studies for Canadian cities. The thesis examines what local housing needs studies are, why they are conducted, various authors1 views as to how they should be conducted, and how they actually have been conducted in Canadian urban areas. The author identifies the major issues which should be considered in completion of such studies and comments upon the implications of use of alternative methods available to deal with these issues. The framework developed in the thesis is derived from 1) a review of current literature on the topic, 2) an examination of ten recently completed Canadian local housing needs studies, and 3) the results of a questionnaire sent to the authors, research directors, and/or planning directors responsible for the studies. A local housing needs study is a report which provides information concerning the shelter needs of the residents of a town, municipality, or metropolitan region. The study is conducted for one or more of the following purposes: 1) to define housing need, 2) to provide data concerning the need, 3) to ensure relevance to local conditions, 4) to meet the growing responsibilities of local governments in housing, 5) to foster action to alleviate housing need. Although current literature on how to conduct a local housing needs study highlights some important considerations, it was found wanting in three respects—1) it is ambiguous (authors do not always agree on how the studies should be conducted), 2) it does not fully take into account the practical constraints facing planners conducting such studies, and 3) it does not include a number of research topics related to the process of conducting the study. Due in part to the limitations of current theory on this topic, the ten Canadian local housing needs studies reviewed have utilized a variety of methodologies to assess housing need. Chapter 3 describes these methodologies in order to enable future researchers to benefit from recent past experience in this field and to compare this work to their own research requirements. The framework outlined in Chapter 4 distinguishes between "Context Issues"—those which affect overall the type of study to be produced (i.e. , objectives, research models, value judgements, format)--and "Content Issues"—those related to specific topic areas contained in the reports (i.e., demographic analysis, quantity housing stock, quality housing stock, suitability, affordability, special needs groups, aspects of the local environment, housing requirements, targets, cost of acting analysis). The implications of the treatment of Context Issues by the ten Canadian studies reviewed is discussed. The advantages and disadvantages of alternative methodologies to employ with regard to the Content Issues are then outlined. The final chapter of the thesis examines the question "When is a local housing needs study successful?" It is the view of this author that an appropriate criterion to assess the success of a local housing needs study is the degree to which it provides sufficient information to permit the politician to decide to what extent resources should be allocated to alleviate housing need.

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