Assessing Housing Need

The first stage to developing any community-led housing initiative is to identify and document the housing need in your area.

Examples of people in housing need come in many different forms including people living in caravans, living with family and friends, living in housing which is unsuitable for them due to disability or size, living in insecure accommodation, or people unable to move to the local area to take up work. Sometimes the situation results in people having to move away from the area to get housing and commute back to their jobs.

If you have concerns about housing need in your community its a good idea to make contact with your local council and local housing association to find out whether they know about the housing problems locally and have any plans to develop affordable housing in your community. It is also a good idea to let them know you are concerned about housing in your community and would like their help to take action to solve housing problems.

However, the data used by local authorities and housing associations to make decisions on housing often covers a wide geographic area and may not accurately reflect your local situation. This data can underestimate rural housing need for a variety of reasons – people with housing needs may believe there is no point joining the waiting list if there is little or social housing in their community, or people with a desire to build their own homes might be missed. Council-wide surveys of housing need can also underestimate rural need as they do not analyse data at a small enough scale to identify pockets within otherwise affluent areas.

There is often substantial anecdotal evidence locally of housing needs but it is essential to undertake some local research to measure housing need to help develop the most appropriate response; to influence the allocation of housing investment and building by a housing association or council; or to demonstrate the viability of a community housing project to potential funders.

A housing need survey provides an assessment of what kind of housing need is required in the community – whether it is rented or low cost ownership housing; whether this is needed by families, older people, single people or disabled people; and what size of housing is required. A survey can also measure what rent or mortgages are affordable to local people, the condition of housing in the area and whether there are people who have left the community who might wish to return.


✓ What kind of affordable housing  is needed?

Is there local evidence about people in need of affordable housing?

Is there a current housing needs survey with up to date information?

✓ Is there other information available about housing need, such as, waiting lists from council or housing associations or the Council Housing Needs & Demand Assessment (HNDA) or Local Housing Strategy?

✓ What is the demographic situation? Are there many 15-20 year old children who might want to live independently or are there a lot of 60+ who might need smaller or adapted housing in the near future?

✓ Is a housing needs survey necessary or is there enough evidence of housing need? Rural Housing Scotland (RHS) can carry out a survey with support from the local community.

✓ Is a drop-in event/ surgery to provide information on housing required? The RHS can help organise this to find out peoples need and views. They can also help to contact landowners.

✓ Have an open meeting for the Housing Needs Survey report to be presented back to the community. A survey normally takes two to three months to complete.


At Rural Housing Scotland we have worked with a number of communities across Scotland to assess housing need. Email Derek at to find out more about how we can help your community.

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