CMHC: Step-by-Step Guide to Developing Affordable Housing

Originally published on Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

The Step-by-Step Guide to Developing Affordable Housing shows how to create and plan affordable housing. It takes users from the start to the end of affordable housing development in a series of clear steps. Even small or inexperienced groups can use the bilingual guide to understand industry jargon and develop their own projects.

The free guide was created with input from experts from across the country. Their knowledge helps reduce the mystery around affordable housing for organizations that are planning their own projects. This ensures they are capable of creating sustainable housing for those in greatest need.

Key Findings/Key Goals

  1. The guide outlines a standard process for creating and planning affordable housing that non-experts can use.
  2. It demystifies industry jargon and practices so that organizations can do more of the planning themselves.
  3. It helps users create and plan housing that is both environmentally and financially sustainable.

It can be challenging for small or inexperienced groups to plan and create affordable housing projects. They may not have industry knowledge or experience with the process, and it may be confusing to them. This can result in projects that stall or unnecessary expenses, such as unneeded consultants or assessments.

The Alberta Rural Development Network (ARDN) 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 Step-by-Step Guide to Developing Affordable Housing was awarded a CMHC Gold Roof Award for Housing Research Excellence.

Designed for Non-Experts

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.

Finally, the guide

  • seeks to improve the environmental and financial sustainability of community housing
  • makes various recommendations about environmental efficiency and assessing a project’s financial feasibility
  • helps groups to create housing that does not require ongoing government funding, improving its financial sustainability
The only guide of its kind in Canada

ARDN’s experiences with their Sustainable Housing Initiative inspired the creation of the guide. They worked with a national advisory committee to produce and refine it, and other industry groups also provided input. The final product is available in both English and French, and it is the only one of its kind in Canada.

ARDN plans to expand the guide to include more details on construction, rather than focusing just on the planning stages. It also wants to include information on the procurement process.

The guide will continue to be shared widely with groups from across Canada. ARDN plans to produce webinars and presentations on the guide, showing how it can be used in different regions. They are currently working with groups in Ontario and British Columbia, and they are exploring opportunities in Quebec.

Project Team: The Alberta Rural Development Network (ARDN)

Location: Edmonton, Alberta
Project Collaborators / Partners:
  • Joshua Benard, Director of Housing, Alberta Rural Development Network
  • Asad Bhatti, Capital Funding Manager, Alberta Rural Development Network
  • Nola Kilmartin, Senior Planner, Kennedy Architecture
  • Zain Abedin, Director of Community Development, Alberta Rural Development Network
  • Scott Travis, Director of Research and Programs, Alberta Rural Development Network
  • Lisa Belanger, Director of Operations, Alberta Rural Development Network
  • Jayde Roche, Program Manager, Alberta Rural Development Network
Get More Information:

Contact CMHC at for more information on this award-winning project, or visit

Step-by-Step Guide to Developing Affordable Housing

The guide was written to be a resource for individuals and groups who want to develop, build, and operate affordable rental housing. Available in both French and English, it seeks to remove the mystery around affordable housing by providing a standardized process for creating and planning affordable housing that anyone can use.


Julia Juco