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Implementing affordable housing: a practical guide

Communities across the country are experiencing affordability challenges, seen in high rents, low vacancy rates, and loss of affordable renting units. Non-profit housing providers have a a range of expertise and experience in this area, but in some cases they don’t have the capacity to carry out development of their own projects. Today I listened in on a webinar hosted by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation through their Expert Community on Housing. From the Alberta Rural Development Network, Zain Abedin explained how their Sustainable Housing Initiative worked with communities in Alberta and Ontario. ARDN helped communities develop financially sustainable projects for the YWCA in Banff and a mixed-use housing project in Whitecourt, AB. ARDN helps communities in the pre-development and design phases to make them more competitive for available funding through CMHC and other sources. Their model for developing sustainable affordable housing can be applied across Canada, and they assembled a team of experts (architects, financial and real estate professionals, researchers) to create a guide to creating affordable rental housing.

ARDN’s step-by-step guide can be used by organizations who are interested in building affordable housing (housingredefined.ca), including guidance on the initiation, planning, execution, and closure phases of implementation. Worksheets help organizations and individuals define their vision for the type of housing they want to develop and determine their organizational readiness for such a development. Asad Bhatti described the needs and demand assessment, which includes StatsCan data on the population, rental and vacancy rates, core housing need, waiting lists, provincial income and affordability thresholds, local strategic planning and land use planning information. He walked participants through calculating the financial feasibility for the project, the pro forma (feasibility over the project lifespan), business case and executive summary.

ARDN was going to hold SHI workshops across Canada, and is still hoping to hold them virtually this fall. Until then, I strongly suggest that non-profit housing organizations and small-scale developers can learn a lot from downloading the guide and going through it on their next project idea. In Nova Scotia, our non-profits have not developed that much housing on their own, and there is the need for capacity building especially on the financial feasibility side.



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