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Measuring housing needs and migration

Extensive study adopting various methodologies to examine local housing market and migration trends

Key benefits:

  • Created a basis for future strategies and decision-making
  • Identified a broad overview of housing within the Sunderland area
  • Development of a 'Five Year Housing Model' which projects trends over the period
  • Ability for short-term strategy-planning
  • The accumulated information supplied for a GIS (Geographical Information System).

Our Assigment

This was a challenging requirement to study specific housing needs in the City of Sunderland, involving three distinct and comprehensive analyses to aid the reliance, validity and clarity of the results. Central to the research was an independent, City-wide study to analyse and establish current and future housing needs, a measure which would subsequently allow for the preparation of the Housing Strategy. In addition, a Migration study was commissioned to investigate reasons and pressures as to why householders would move in and out of Sunderland, and detail attitudes involved in such level of decision-making. Thirdly, a smaller-scale survey amongst businesses pertinent to the housing market (such as estate agents, letting agents etc.) was conducted to complement the migration study, and indicate actual and potentially impacting factors upon the issue of migrating householders in the area.


The detailed research design helped to establish specific results for the Client, which aided interpretation and understanding of issues affecting residents in Sunderland. Data was gathered not only highlighting current issues in the area, but also future needs and wants of residents, indicating a broad spectrum of potential changes and improvements to help satisfy local expectation.
The migration study analysed reasoning and influences behind decisions to move in and out of the City, and as a result, helped to identify specific ‘drivers’ behind such decision-making. Demographic data collected allowed for the Client to form a typical migrant profile, and gain further insight into the thought processes involved in inbound and outbound movement.
The study of stakeholders within the housing business helped attach credibility to the end results, and gave a more detailed perspective of important issues in the field. Similar to the first two studies, data collected included suggestions and recommendations on how housing can be improved in the region, and related insights including demand, buyer behaviour and how they themselves view the housing situation in the City.


The survey findings derived from the study fully satisfied the research brief, providing the Client with the basis for future strategies and decision-making regarding housing in Sunderland. The use of various methodologies, together with the differing profiles of study participants, enabled the in-depth research to give a broad overview of housing (and related issues) within the City of Sunderland.
More specifically, detailed interpretation of the results was enhanced with the resulting development of a ‘Five Year Housing Needs Model’ (see accompanying diagram); a concept which projected current trends over a five-year period, allowing the Client to anticipate likely future housing requirements in the City. Informed forecasting such as this allows the initial forming of not only short-term strategy-planning and preparation, but also thought for the mid to long-term.
In addition, the accumulated information was also supplied for a G.I.S. (Geographical Information System).

Our Approach

Working closely with our Client, a detailed research strategy was developed and finalised to cover in full the briefed information, involving various methodologies to elicit the required results. The housing needs study took the form of a postal self-completion questionnaire, mailed initially to a random selection of 5000 households in the Sunderland area. Following the encouraging response from this pilot study, a further random selection of 34000 residents was made by ward, with sample size adjustments made to achieve the required number of questionnaires using the response rate data collected in the pilot study.
Data collection methods used in the Migration study again centred around a postal self-completion survey; selected respondents being based upon in and out-migrant records over the two years prior to the study. Additionally, a random selection of 2000 were sourced from Council and University records - with 1000 undergraduates migrating to Sunderland and 1000 recent graduates leaving the City. From these sourced records, a significant percentage agreed to take part in a more in-depth interview concerning migration, the majority of which were conducted via telephone; the remainder being interviewed in their own homes.
In addition to these interviews, two focus groups were set up in Sunderland to further investigate the topic of migration in the area. Each group was eight-strong, with the sample consisting of young residents (non-students) who were considering moving house in the following two years. Such methodology attaches a greater sense of ‘personal’ involvement to the interview, and consequently increases the reliability of the data obtained.
Twelve in-depth, face-to-face interviews were conducted with representatives from businesses with a direct involvement in housing in the Sunderland area, a process which would augment and add credibility to the results ascertained via the two supplementary studies outlined. Such a cross-section of adopted methodologies and participants in the course of the project allowed for greater accuracy, reliability and confidence in interpreting the end results.

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