Need and Demand Assessments

The assist with the development of a preliminary housing need assesment the Ministry of Housing in partnership with CMHC created the Local Plan Data Profiles which are a set of tables with census based information and other high level indicators organized by Service Manager boundaries. These table are available through the Ministry regional offices or through the HHRC.


In partnership with the Housing Service Corporation we have prepared a guide to help the the analysis of the information in the Data Profiles. This guide follows a logical approach and the table of contents is offered as a way to organize the information.

 Guide and Data Template for doing Housing Needs Assessment

It is aknowledged that census based data is useful for creating a high level picture of the local communities, however it has weaknesses when trying to identify specific issues across the housing system. To assist with the development of more finely tuned analysis we have created an 'indicator tool' which suggests approaches and sources of data for more detailed analysis around specific topics or domains of the housing system. Attached is the first draft of that guide which we will continue to develop as Service Managers do increasingly detailed analysis.

Housing System Indicator Tool


Approach to Housing Need Assessments

A fundamental step to understanding what direction a Service Manager housing strategy should take is undestanding the current housing needs of the whole population and project how those needs will change over the period covered in the plan. A clear and complete needs assessment done at the beginning of the plan development process helps ensure all partners and stakeholdes begin with a shared understanding of the issues before them.

Steps to assess housing need:

  1. Assemble available data to develop a profile of the community. This includes demographic and socio-economic chracteristics of the community as well as specific housing market indicators. To assist with this process the Ministry has created Service Manager Data Profiles, which are a series of tables summarizing census and other secondary data sorted by Service Manager boundries.
  2. To assist with the analysis of this information the HHRC in partnership with HSC has created a guide
  3. recognizing that information in high level socio-economic and demographic can give a general view of housing i
  4. Identify major issues in the existing housing system
  5. Determine gaps across whole housing system, that is the difference between housing needs by type and cost and what will be available in the housing market
  6. Supplement with infomation available through consultation
  7. Identify and prioritize key issues

As many Service Managers have found the development of a needs assessment is a defined project which requires skills that are not normally available within a Service Managers staff and consequently can be successfully outsourced to a consultant.

Excellent overviews are available in other sources. These include CMHC Guide to Developing a Municipal Affordable Housing Strategy (CMHC Guide Local Housing Strategy). Chapter 3 in that document deals with the housing side of needs assessments, and includes lists of other resources.

Questions to guide assessments

A useful way to proceed is to consider a number of questions that need to be considered in order to ensure that the needs assessment is as comprehensive and complete as possible. The answers to many questions identified here may vary from one local community to another within the service manager area. Each service manager will need to decide what geographic breakdowns may be appropriate or feasible.

A comprehensive needs assessment could easily take 3 to 6 months full time by a specialized team. Each service manager will need to decide what is feasible, and what is required, in its own case.

Existing sources

  • Has a study been done recently that will provide key needs-related information you can build on or draw on? This may come from your municipality/DSSAB, a local municipality, a community coalition, social planning organization, or Local Health Integration Network.
    • An existing housing strategy, needs assessment, or plan
    • An Official Plan review
    • A needs assessment for a particular population (e.g. seniors, mental health)
    • A Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS) community plan process
  • Are there consultation documents/findings associated with any of these other sources?

Population and income trends

  • What are the basic recent trends in population by age and household/family type?
    • Trends available from online census – see related HHRC document on data sources. Basic data on can be compared for online community profiles for 2001 and 2006.
    • What do local sources know about trends, e.g. employment trends from business or economic development sources in your community?
    • Is population aging a strong trend in your community (e.g. compared to Ontario-wide)?
  • What is the projected population and household change over the next 10 years?
    • If a housing needs assessment has been done, projections will usually be part of it.
    • Development Charges studies usually involve a population projection.
    • Projections of population (but not households) for every county/region/district are available on the Ministry of Finance website.
  • Is the population changing significantly (e.g. elderly, Aboriginal) even if it is not growing much?
  • What are the basic profiles and trends in incomes?
    • How do median incomes compare to Ontario-wide levels?
    • What do local sources know about employment income levels and trends?

Housing stock, production, and market trends

  • What is the basic profile and trends in your housing stock, for example:
    • Structural type and tenure (e.g. own vs. rent; house  vs. apartment – online census profile)
    • Prices of resale homes and new homes (from CMHC and local real estate sources)
    • Rent levels (from local knowledge, OW admin data, orCMHC where available)
    • What numbers and type of dwellings are being built and being demolished on an average annual or 5-year basis? (local building departments)
  • How do median resale house prices compare with median incomes? (get a realtor to do a standard calculation of affordability if you cannot do this in-house)
  • Is a significant part of housing demand from forces outside your community, e.g. commuting to work elsewhere, vacation homes, investor/speculator purchase, or retirement demand?
  • Does your community have distinctive features that will affect housing needs, for example:
    • A relatively large seniors population
    • Seasonal or vacation property markets that affect housing options for residents
    • Low growth or population loss
    • A large Aboriginal population
    • Prisons, mental health institutions, armed forces bases or other special facilities
  • What are the median rents and what are the low-end market rents for apartments?
    • From official data sources (e.g. CMHC Rental Market Survey if the main urban centre in your area is a Census Agglomeration)
    • From OW or Rent Bank/EEF data
    • From local knowledge

Housing condition (state of repair)

  • Is your community experiencing broad trends that can be expected to affect the state of repair (e.g. aging apartment buildings, more senior homeowners, no growth/slack demand)?
  • What do various data sources indicate about the need for major repair?  For example:
    • Census and Core Need data (see above)
    • Local knowledge, e.g. from property standards inspections
    • RRAP or IAH Ontario Renovates funding applications
    • Building condition surveys of social housing

Low-income needs

  • How many residents are in low income by official definitions (census profiles)?
  • What are the incomes and profile of people applying for social housing?
  • What are the incomes and profile of people applying for homeless-related services?
  • How do median or average rents compare with “half of median income”? (the latter is one of the standard definitions of low income)
  • What is the gap between low-end rents and 30% of typical low incomes (e.g. those on OW, ODSP), or relatively low incomes (e.g. those on minimum wage or OAS/GIS)?
  • Is any reliable information available on rent levels of rented rooms that serve low-income singles and couples (e.g. from OW sources, local knowledge of service providers, etc.)?
  • If the main urban centre in your SM area is a Census Agglomeration, what are the trends in Core Housing Need?[1]

Social and affordable housing

  • How many low-income renters (seniors, families, others) are in social housing?
    • Housing you fund and administer as service manager?
    • Supportive housing funded through Health and Long Term Care /LHIN?
    • Supportive housing funded through Community and Social Services?
  • How does this compare to the numbers of low-income renters?
  • What is the profile of households (e.g. household/family type, age, income level and source) in the social housing you fund and administer? How has this changed in recent years?
  • How does the profile of applicants on the waiting list, and of applicants placed into RGI, compare to the existing tenant population and the existing unit mix (e.g. in terms of income, senior vs. other, size of unit or household, special needs). What does this imply for the future?
  • How will the number of subsidized rental units and/or provider mandates and/or viability of providers be affected by the projected expiry of federal funding over the next 10 years?
  • What do the priorities that have been set for IAH indicate about housing needs in your area?


  • What is the projected increase in “old elderly” population (age 75+ or 80+) over the next 10 years or more (see sources above). This is the group that needs more support services.
  • What does the experience of service providers, hospitals, and social housing providers (municipal or community-based) indicate about trends and needs for assisted living, i.e. options between an independent house/apartment and a nursing home?
  • What trends are occurring with retirement communities, life-lease housing, and other specialized seniors housing options? What needs are these serving and not serving?

People at risk of homelessness

  • What do service providers in your community know about couch-surfing or crowding or doubling-up of households?
  • What does administrative data tell about numbers of people facing loss of their home, be it a house or apartment? For example, monthly and annual applicant, usage, and cost data from service providers; CSUB or other OW data; EEF or Rent Bank or equivalent local programs? What is the client profile in terms of income, tenure, family type, age, and triggering factors?
  • What do service providers, any existing documents, and administrative data say about how well existing services of this sort are meeting needs, and what the gaps are?
  • What do service providers serving particular populations (e.g. Aboriginals, Franco-Ontarians, immigrant groups) say about needs and issues for their population they serve?

Emergency accommodation and rehousing

  • If there are emergency shelters in your area, what do administrative data (applicants, service usage, costs, etc.) tell you about numbers and types of people served on a nightly and annual basis, and about reasons, trends, and issues?   What about other accommodation for homeless persons or families if that applies in your area (e.g. motels, YM/YWCA, etc.)?
  • What can VAW shelter and service providers tell you about the housing and service needs of the people they serve?
  • To what extent is there a range of emergency accommodation serving the various populations? What do service providers and any existing plans say about the needs and gaps in services?
  • To what extent are people who need or who access homeless-related services in your community migrating to or from other service manager areas?
  • Are stays in emergency shelters longer than necessary due to lack of affordable housing options? Due to lack of start-up benefits/counselling/ connections with landlords?  Due to lack of supports relating to mental health, addictions, or other ongoing needs?
  • Are supports to help rehouse people coordinated with shelters (if applicable)?  Is there linkage between shelter workers, housing workers, and OW workers, to get clients rehoused?

Housing with supports

  • What are the numbers and types of housing for the main population groups that require housing with supports in your community? How much of this is SM-administered social housing? How much is funded and administered by MOHLTC/LHINs or MCSS?
  • Who is served by domiciliary hostels in your community, who are the providers, and what are the needs and issues?
  • What are the distinct needs and issues in the main population groups where housing with supports are needed? What is evident from your own service manager operation of social housing and homeless-related services? What do service providers tell you?
  • In many or most communities these population groups will include at least the following:
    • Victims of domestic violence
    • People with ongoing/serious mental health needs
    • People with addictions
    • People with physical disabilities that affect their ability to live independently
    • Seniors needing supports (see above)
    • People with developmental disabilities (community living)

Comprehensive approach to the whole housing system

[1] Census Agglomeration is a smaller urban centre as defined by Statistics Canada; data on Core Housing Need (affordability and quality by family type and age) is provided in the CMHC Housing in Canada Online website.  Comparison of data for 1996, 2001 and 2006 will normally needs or trends relevant today.