Housing Supply and Tenure

It is important to maintain accurate data on numbers and types of housing, and the range of available housing tenures. These provide a baseline for future housing delivery and allow a comparison to be made between estimated housing need (in terms of housing numbers and housing types) and housing availability. It also provides a basis for tracking new housing delivery trends and local residential development and land supplies.

There are many ways of categorising and describing dwellings. A common distinction is between private dwellings and non-private dwellings, which include hospitals, prisons and hotels. Dwelling types include detached dwellings, semi-detached and row or terrace housing, flats or apartments in one or two storeys and higher storey blocks. Flats might also be attached to a dwelling house. Other dwellings might include caravans, manufactured homes, houseboats, homes or flats attached to a shop or office, or improvised housing such as a tent.

Data on the number of bedrooms provides an indicator of dwelling sizes—Anglo-Saxon countries are actually quite backward in not routinely recording and quoting dwelling sizes in square metres. Comparing numbers of occupants for each dwelling type and/or for houses of different bedroom configuration can provide an important indicator of overcrowding.

Dwellings are usually classified as occupied or unoccupied. Vacant houses, holiday homes, huts and cabins (other than seasonal workers’ quarters) are counted as unoccupied dwellings. In analysing housing supply, it will be particularly important to take into account the vacancies in areas with high rates of seasonal visitors, although such data can be difficult to obtain. Vacancy rates can also be important to monitor as an indicator of low demand, including oversupply in certain markets. Also included within the vacant stock are newly completed dwellings not yet occupied, dwellings that are vacant because they are due for demolition or repair, and dwellings available to rent or purchase.

Housing tenure describes the legal mechanism through which a household accesses housing. The two main forms of tenure are rental and ownership, which are often broken down into the categories of fully owned, being purchased, shared ownership, rented (in the private sector); rented (from a social housing authority), and other tenure types.

Rental vacancy rates can be an important measure of the state of the rental market. There are different ‘rules of thumb’ regarding the ideal vacancy rate thought to represent a balance between supply and demand for housing. Somewhere between 3 and 5 % is usually regarded to provide a balance between demand and supply for rental accommodation. Vacancy in rental accommodation is important given that flexibility and mobility are often important to households in search of rental housing.

Understanding trends in house prices and rents is an obviously critical component of the analysis, but sources of available data vary by jurisdiction. Where available, it can be important to distinguish between the prices/rents for detached and attached dwellings, and between new and established homes.

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