Needs Mapping Survey
This July we launched our in-depth needs assessment of the housing needs in the Bellingen and Nambucca Shires. Nicole Schum was a member of the Housing Needs Working Group, and here she shares the group’s outcomes and lessons learnt.
“My name is Nicole and I was a member of the needs-mapping group. Our group’s brief was to determine a way to assess the needs and gaps for housing, and which groups of population are experiencing the most housing stress in our community.
It made sense that the needs analysis would be done earlier on amongst the other actions, in order to inform other Working Groups and ensure that other initiatives would be evidenced-based and responding to real local needs.
People volunteered for the Working Group by email according to their interests and what they thought they could offer, and we formed without knowing each other at all.
The first real nuts and bolts task seemed to be making up the right survey questions to get us to the bottom of the problem.
The link to the questionnaire was emailed around our Action Group mailing list, and extended networks from there, and the Paper version was placed around at the shire libraries, Men’s Sheds, playgroups etc to catch those people who don’t use the internet so much.
We ended up with 300 emailed responses and about 70 on paper.
Then came the Data crunching, which meant we all tallied up the responses, and tried to identify patterns, and groups of issues. When we next met face to face, that was actually the first and last time I was able to make it to a meeting, and see all my fellow groupies, so that was exciting, and that was when it felt like real grass roots activism.
The general themes stood out very obviously and confirmed all of our suspicions and also affirmed previous council data and ABS data on gaps and issues the local community. It was great to read real life responses and stories which correlated with the very dry data.
The outcomes we identified will resonate with everyone here. General recurrent themes were
- Housing is way too expensive
- There is not enough variety of housing
- Accommodation is not secure enough
The Needs for the Shires we were able to identify clearly were
- A greater mix of housing type, and especially the low cost and smaller dwellings are under-represented
- A greater variety of tenure type is needed, such as longer leases. Greater security for renters, more support for ownership and co-operative housing.
- Less red tape to improve on the variety and for innovation.
- More options for financial assistance and subsidies.
The satisfying thing about this project was that was that the findings were then used by the larger Housing Action group to compose a ‘10 Point Plan for Change,’ which is a clear and simple document that can be used to advocate for change when the group meets with stakeholders and local and state or federal members. It’s exciting to think that the work is continuing here and hopefully it will lead to some real outcomes and solutions.
So FINALLY one more thought: given that some action groups do die out or fail to launch. Ultimately what made our group work so well?
- The ones who volunteered were passionate and committed to the cause and made time available
- They listened to each other with respect and attention even when there was disagreement
- They put their hands up for tasks
- They communicated by email if they couldn’t make it to meetings so that their views were still included in the discussion
- And we had positive leadership, who knew how to keep the momentum up and how to keep people engaged.
So: Big thanks to our leader and the other group members for all their efforts, I really enjoyed being a part of it.”