Affordable housing is usually the result of bringing the right people and the right resources together, with a common vision for what the development will achieve.
Prepare your organization
Your organization should have people experienced in key areas such as property development, financial management, and fundraising. You should also have a strong vision for the development – usually, a board of directors or a development committee sets this vision.
Here are a few questions worth considering right at the beginning:
- Is your organization financially ready?
- Do your employees have the skills, experience, and time to do the additional work?
- Do you have a clear set of written job descriptions, policies, and procedures?
- Do you have adequate insurance coverage, including liability insurance?
Not all of these items have to be dealt with before you continue, but it’s good to get a start now.
Build a professional team
Even the most experienced teams sometimes need outside help. Consider adding a project manager, development consultant, lawyer, architect, cost consultant (quantity surveyor), or fundraising expert to your team. Experience with affordable housing or non-profits is an asset.
Your success might also depend on building partnerships with agencies that will serve the residents and with land owners and developers.
Create a development plan
A detailed development plan ensures the right steps are done in the right order, with the right resources in place so you avoid costly mistakes. You can also use it as a tool to promote your project.
The activities and responsibilities detailed in your plan depend on the type of project you’re working on – from construction management (which involves contracting out most of the work) to turnkey development (where you’ll be responsible from start to finish).
Find a site
Choosing a site for your project is central to its success, because it determines whether the housing can be made affordable, and whether it is accessible to the community you are trying to support.
Affordability is important, but the first criteria is whether the property is suitable to your target group’s needs. Is there enough space? If a building already exists, does it have the right kind of spaces? Does it meet accessibility needs? Does it have room for the right services and amenities, or are they located nearby?
Sites for affordable housing often involve developing properties that a stakeholder already owns. That can mean partnering with a service or community organization. You can also bid on requests for proposals for public land; some municipalities offer incentives to developers that plan to build affordable housing.
Even for a bargain property, other factors may influence the actual cost:
- Is the site fully serviced (access, hydro, water and sewage)?
- Does the zoning of the site, or any other local restrictions, allow for your development?
- Is the site environmentally sound? If not, can a cleanup be done inexpensively?