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Housing Need and Demand Assessment: An evaluation and illustrative pilot of the Scottish HNDA tool in the context of Northern Ireland

This report was commissioned by the Department for Communities in response to a key recommendation emerging from its Housing Market Symposium that had been tasked with identifying current research and statistical data that would help inform interventions in the housing market to address the undersupply of new housing in Northern Ireland. The study was designed as a proof of concept to assess the potential to apply the Scottish Government’s Excel-based Housing Need and Demand Tool at the Northern Ireland level and recognised that inter-jurisdictional differences in housing market conditions would require modifications to the algorithms embedded within it.

The Key Findings of the report are:

  • The Scottish Government’s HNDA tool provides an integrated analysis of the housing system that recognises the interactions between tenures and provides estimates of housing requirements broken down into four tenure-based categories (unsubsidised owner-occupation; unsubsidised privately rented accommodation; dwellings at below-market rent – including ‘intermediate rent’, ‘mid-market rent’ or shared equity/ownership schemes; and, social housing) constrained to an overall annual future requirement figure determined by a combination of backlog housing need and household projections.
  • The tool recognises the need for scenario planning in an increasingly uncertain economic and policy environment and provides a user-friendly Excel interface to facilitate the necessarily collaborative approach to planning for housing necessitated by the number of Government bodies involved in the planning for housing process in Northern Ireland.
  • The HNDA model is clearly transparent in terms of its assumptions and highlights the difference between overall future housing requirements produced by the Tool and Government funded programmes or targets.
  • Like all such models the robustness of the HNDA tool can be criticised both in terms of data quality and methodological assumptions – it implicitly assumes that there will be no fundamental change in the underlying economic and policy environment, including an assumption that the private rented sector will continue to play an increasingly important role in meeting future housing needs. However, these kinds of limitations are in no way unique to the HNDA tool and should not be seen as detracting from its merits.
  • The study concludes that in the last analysis, the HNDA Tool is an analytical model that is underpinned by a clear rationale. Its potential as a means to facilitate scenario planning and promote inter-organisational collaboration means its application in the context of Northern Ireland has much to commend it.

Postscript: this study was completed prior to the COVID-19 Emergency. The trajectories of incomes, house prices and rents used in the report are therefore unrealistic in the immediate post-pandemic period. However, the study was undertaken as a proof of concept. The housing market will recover and even in the interim the systems approach and the scenario planning that lie at the heart of the HNDA model means that the overall conclusions of the report remain valid.

Authors: Dr Joe Frey, Prof Chris Leishman, Prof Stanley McGreal and Dr Gillian Young


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Date: July 16, 2020 3:28 pm

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