HART: Housing Assessment Resource Tools

The Project

There is currently no standardized method among Canada’s three levels of government to measure housing needs by income category or sizes. Disaggregated data on marginalized groups is also weak and inconsistent. Housing need assessments rarely include net loss of affordable housing or include additional needs based on population growth and change over a 10-year period. Another data gap is a lack of an agreed upon approach to identify and use well-located land for affordable housing.

A standardized approach with easy-to-use tools is necessary to properly inform plans that can generate effective, equitable, and comparable housing strategies to address housing needs.

To address this problem, as part of the Housing Supply Challenge, the Housing Research Collaborative at the University of British Columbia (UBC) will create a ‘proof of concept’ need assessment tool based on international best practice, and a land assessment tool to model scenarios.

UBC will create the tools in partnership with municipalities, governments and non-profits by developing shared understandings, methodologies and data. In the first phase, we are developing prototype tools with the City of Kelowna, BC. In the longer term, we hope to disseminate and scale the use of these tools across the country, and provide training for urban planners and other urban professionals through an online certificate program.

Core team

Penny GursteinDirector, HRC

Carolyn WhitzmanLead Investigator, HART

Administrative Support

Craig E. JonesResearch Coordinator, HRC

Andrés PeñalozaCommunications Manager, HRC

Associate Researchers

Michael SawadaDirector of the Laboratory for Applied Geomatics and GIS Science (LAGGISS), University of Ottawa (Land Assessment)

Alexandra FlynnAllard School of Law, UBC (Readiness Survey)

Martine AugustSchool of Planning, University of Waterloo (Land Assessment)

Raymond NgComputer Science, UBC (Data Management)

Julia HartenSchool of Community and Regional Planning, UBC (Data Management)

Rory StevensResearch Associate, Need Assessment, M’Akola Development Services

Mikayla TinsleyResearch Associate, Readiness Survey, UBC

Sakshi JainPlacement Student, Data Management, UBC

Xiaoxuan LiangPlacement Student, Data Management, UBC


Advisory Committee

We Are Developing Three Tools

1. Housing Need Assessment
We are developing a need assessment tool that includes housing need by income category, household size and priority population (e.g. Indigenous, women and children survivors of violence):

  • Carolyn Whitzman
  • Rory Stever
  • Craig E. Jones

2. Land Assessment
We are developing a GIS-based too to assess the suitability of well-located government and non-profit land for social and affordable housing:

  • Mike Sawada

3. Readiness Assessment
We are surveying politicians, planners and housing providers on their experiences and requirements in relation to need and land assessment:

  • Penny Gurstein
  • Carolyn Whitzman
  • Mikayla Tilsley
  • Alexandra Flynn

First Stage Report: City of Kelowna Prototype

Interested in knowing more about housing need and land assessment?

A little history:

Advisory Committee on Reconstruction. (1944). Housing and Community Planning: Final report of subcommittee. Ottawa: Government of Canada. Based on a housing need analysis of three income categories, the ‘Curtis Report’ recommended the Government of Canada support 33% social housing for lower income Canadians, and 33% purpose-built rental for moderate income Canadians.

Dennis, M., & Fish, S. (1972). Low-Income Housing: programs in search of a policy. Ottawa: CMHC. Based on a housing and policy analysis that focused on income categories, this report recommended the Government of Canada support 45% social and subsidized housing for low- and moderate-income Canadians, using land and home banking policies.

Yuen, B. (2007). Squatters No More: Singapore Social Housing. Global Urban Development Magazine, 3. Tells of how Singapore addressed its huge housing deficit when it became an independent nation in 1964, using a good needs assessment and aggressive land banking.

Good practices:

Lawson, J., & Ruonavaara, H. (2020). Land policy for affordable and inclusive housing: An international review. Helsinki: Smartland Research Program, University of Turku. A great recent overview of land policy for social and affordable housing.

Palm, M, Raynor, K. & Whitzman, C. (2018) Project 30,000: Producing Social and Affordable Housing on Government Land. Melbourne: University of Melbourne Transforming Housing Research Program. An example of a need and land assessment in Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city.

Palm, M., & Whitzman, C. (2020). Housing need assessments in San Francisco, Vancouver, and Melbourne: normative science or neoliberal alchemy? Housing Studies, 35(5), 771-794. The politics of needs assessments, especially in relation to household income categories.

BC Government Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (2019) Guide to Requirements for Housing Needs Reports. Current Canadian best practice in municipal needs assessments.

BC Non-Profit Housing Association (2021) Canadian Rental Housing Index. Current Canadian best practice in publicly available data on rental housing affordability.

What’s Next:

British Columbia’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner. (2020). Disaggregated demographic data collection in British Columbia: The grandmother perspective. A strong call for disaggregated data.

Federation of Canadian Municipalities. (2020). COVID-19 and housing: Critical need, urgent opportunity. A call for a return to home banking – a national acquisitions strategy – as a way to meet the needs of low- and moderate-income households.