Any good housing needs assessment is reliant on accurate and relevant data that will align with anecdotal evidence. In addition to qualifying a problem, funding bodies and the government will need to see data-backed research before disbursing any funding for affordable housing. It is for these reasons that one must take great care in the sourcing and interpretation of supporting data. In many cases, the supporting data you require is likely accessible through various platforms. Many reputable and established organizations can give you accurate and accessible information. With that said, specific circumstances such as developers in rural areas may need to gather their own data to complete the picture.


Start your search by contacting your municipality or visiting their open data website (i.e., Open Ottawa). Cities often have the clearest and most holistic understanding of their community’s needs. They may provide you with a previous needs assessment or access to a knowledge expert in their community.

Credit: Open Ottawa – A Housing Profile of Ottawa (2024)


For otherwise unavailable and broader demographic information, Statistics Canada census data is a great tool for understanding the population of the area surrounding a development site. This can help inform the income levels in the region, average housing costs, or other critical population features. Make sure that information is most up to date and be carful to consider any opportunities for misinterpretation.

Credit: Statistics Canada GeoSearch – Available Census Data (2024)


Data features like ownership/rental numbers, unit types, rent pricing, vacancy rates, and housing stock health are all best sourced directly from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). As a direct touchpoint, the corporation has unfettered access to the most up-to-date information.

Credit: CMHC – Housing Market Information Portal (2024)

Credit: CMHC – Rental Market Survey Data Table (2023)

When considering demand, waiting lists for social housing, local community groups, and other regional primary sources often have the most accurate and up to date information. Understanding the specific and unique needs of a local population will greatly improve community buy-in and demonstrate competency.

To conclude, the aforementioned resources are great places to start, but understanding what differentiates good, useful, and relevant data from noise is crucial when deciding how to ground your needs assessment.


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