Sustainable Housing Initiative (SHI)

Due to a lack of resources and the capacity to plan and execute large housing projects, our rural communities are missing an integral part of the housing continuum. There is a critical shortage of affordable housing options, but this issue has not received the same attention as it has in urban centres.

Without affordable housing, many small communities cannot prevent homelessness or help people through the housing continuum. This negatively impacts the affected individuals, who may become chronic users of emergency shelters, or relocate to larger centres, removing them from a familiar environment and any support system they might have.

If the homeless migrate to larger centres in search of services, they may discover they must be homeless for a year before they’re eligible for many services, meaning they can easily become victims or turn to crime in the interim. As well, this removal of people from the local rural population negatively impacts the community and its ability to grow.

Finally, the lack of affordable housing negatively impacts other groups and individuals, such as business owners who offer lower-wage jobs, seniors transitioning to supportive care, families, disenfranchised youth, and people with mental health issues and addictions.

The inventory of affordable housing in Canada’s rural communities must be increased. One of the primary barriers to creating affordable housing in rural communities is the lack of funding and capacity to plan and execute large-scale, long-term projects, and to create the partnerships necessary to ensure the project is cost-effective and sustainable. Small communities often do not have the resources and expertise to go through the lengthy and complex processes (including conducting research and securing funding) that are necessary to build a multi-unit housing project.

RDN has ongoing partnerships with rural communities and community-based organizations struggling to address the shortage in affordable housing. We have started a multi-stakeholder initiative to bring more affordable housing to rural communities. By promoting new partnerships across Canada and leveraging existing resources, this initiative will provide rural communities with tools and new ways of addressing a growing problem instead of transferring it to urban centres.

CMHC Gold Roof Award for Housing Research Excellence

The Rural Development Network (RDN) has created a guide to help take the mystery out of affordable housing. Groups can follow the Step-by-Step Guide to Developing Affordable Housing throughout the planning and creation of their project. It leads them through the necessary steps to ensure their project proceeds and that it is financially sustainable.

The guide is designed for non-experts. It takes users through a series of stages, highlighting what they need to consider or do for each step. The guide also includes some helpful templates and worksheets that groups can use when they create and plan their project.

The guide was created in consultation with a national advisory committee of experts from across Canada. It draws on this expertise to help users understand the jargon and practices of the housing industry. This helps groups do more of the work themselves and identify exactly what they need, saving time and money.

View the full article on CMHC's website.

The Step-By-Step Guide to Developing Affordable Housing

Funded in part by the Government of Canada's Homelessness Partnering Strategy’s Innovative Solutions to Homelessness.

SHI has created a step-by-step guide to developing affordable housing for rural communities. This free, comprehensive guide aims to save communities valuable time and resources by acting as a walkthrough on how to successfully develop, build, and manage affordable housing. The guide collates unique projects and showcases a wide array of owner/operator models including: private developers, not-for-profit groups, and local municipal governments.

This Guide was created with guidance from the National Advisory Committee (a group comprised of housing experts and individuals working together to address housing and homelessness issues across the country) whose feedback and expertise informed the development process.

One of the first projects supported through this initiative is the YWCA Banff Courtyard Project. This 33-unit, 3-storey cost-effective project will produce net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and provide affordable rental housing for up to 78 residents who face barriers to finding suitable accommodation. The Courtyard Project will have at least four suites that are barrier-free for people with accessibility needs.

The National Housing Strategy's Affordable Housing Innovation Fund

Through the National Housing Strategy’s Affordable Housing Innovation Fund, the Government of Canada awarded $10 million to SHI for the development of at least 8 affordable housing projects that:

  • Meet net-zero energy-efficiency targets
  • Are constructed using shipping containers, and
  • Use psychology of aesthetics design to improve the physical and mental well-being of tenants.

This funding was also used to develop the Step-by-Step Guide to Developing Affordable Housing.

Request your copy of the Guide.

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