Developing Affordable Housing in Partnership with Faith-Based Organizations

Written by Alison Elliott

January 25, 2022

After attending the Kehilla Institute’s webinar entitled Synagogues and Parking Lots on October 7th, 2021, I was struck with how much experience Cahdco has had in this sect of affordable housing development. With 18 clients, 308 units completed and 35 in construction, Cahdco has extensive experience developing affordable housing with faith-based organizations.

Due to diminishing congregation numbers and an abundance of land, the opportunity to develop affordable housing in partnership with faith-based organizations is an emerging trend. As there is limited information on the intricacies of developing with faith-based organizations, this blog post will showcase our experience and derive some key takeaways that can be used by other developers along their journey.


Veterans House

Client: Multi-Faith Housing Initiative

Units: 40

Status: Occupancy in 2021

MHI’s mission as an organization is to ensure that all people have safe, affordable and continuous housing. Seeing a gap in housing for veterans, MHI took the opportunity to create Veterans House. Veterans House is a housing first development located at the former Rockcliffe Base, now owned by Multifaith Housing Initiative. The project was a reaction to the growing need for housing and support services for veterans who are experiencing homelessness. There is an emphasis on communal spaces designed to meet the needs of the military culture. Outdoor space includes quiet sitting areas, as well as space to accommodate the needs of tenants with service dogs. This project has a multitude of government and non-governmental partners that work together to support the functioning of Veterans House and its tenants.




Cornerstone Princeton

Client: Cornerstone Housing for Women

Units: 42

Status: Completed in 2018

With their roots starting in a church basement, Cornerstones mission is to ensure that all women in need have a place in support services, programs, and housing. This mission led Cornerstone to Princeton, a supportive housing project containing 42 studios and one respite room at the former Jeanne D’Arc building. The transformation of the existing building as an affordable supportive housing facility for women preserves the legacy of the Sisters who originally owned the building. Cornerstone Princeton is home to the charity’s Indigenous and Cultural Services Program, meaning that more than 20% of residents are Indigenous and uniquely supported.



KDS Village

Client: The King’s Daughters and Sons Apartments Inc

Units: 58
Status: Completed 2019

KDS has a long-standing stake in affordable housing, driven by their mission to provide seniors in need with affordable rental accommodations. Their original building was constructed in 1964 with 70 units for seniors. The new building extension, KDS Village, added 58 new units which are comprised of 10 fully barrier-free units and 16 adaptable units to meet changing mobility needs of tenants.  The project aims to address aging in place and facilitates independent living in an established downtown neighbourhood. Through partnerships, KDS aims to provide health support services for residents through recreational programs and health clinics. This 6 and a half-storey project was designed by CSV Architects and is LEED Platinum certified.



Christ Church Bell’s Corners

Client: Christ Church Bell’s Corners

Units: 35

Statues: In Construction

Christ Church Bell’s Corners’ (CCBC) mission as a church makes them a strong advocate for social rights, partnering with a multitude of organizations around Ottawa. It was a natural inclination for CCBC to propose converting their parking lot into a 35-unit, mixed community, affordable housing development. Cornerstone will provide administrative and property management services for the building. Western Ottawa Community Resource Centre and FAMSAC Food Cupboard will be tenant partners, with purpose-built space on the ground floor of the building to create a community service hub. The Community Resource Centre will also provide supports to tenants of ten units reserved for women referred by Cornerstone and Chrysalis House, a shelter for women escaping violence. The site is seen as a community hub.


Key Takeaways

Mission-driven development:

In working with both churches and faith-based organizations, we have found that there is no expectation that the prospective target demographic abide by a certain religion. All of these developments come from a mission that is rooted in faith, but tenants or program users from any faith background are welcome.

Knowledge Gap:

In most cases, faith-based organizations are unfamiliar with the development process, especially the process of affordable housing development; a complex one to say the least. One of the largest hurdles is understanding that the three essential components of development must be present: land, capacity, and capital. In some experiences, clients hope that development projects will aid in renovating/redeveloping their church, or support some other unrequited financial piece. This is more than often the opposite case, as any project requires an influx of capital. At Cahdco, we take the time to run organizations through a presentation on the basics of affordable housing development, including the phases of development (feasibility, design development, construction, operations). This helps both parties start the project off on the right foot.

Internal Organization Structures:

There are two types of faith-based groups we have worked with: an organization or a church. Within each there are very different governance structures. For example, a church may have a parish, a congregation, and a board of directors. This renders decision-making at levels that differ from a housing developer such as MHI, for example. To better understand and work with their governance structure, it’s essential to understand the role and decision-making ability of each body. It would be helpful to ask the organization or church you are working with for an organizational chart or verbal description of their decision-making processes. If several bodies will be involved in the development process, an authority matrix should be considered.


An important factor when developing with faith-based organizations is their capacity limits. Usually they are heavily dependent on volunteers and have limited staff, putting a strain on an already busy and multi-faceted team.


Many of the organizations we work with acknowledge their commitment to reconciliation. Cornerstone Housing has made strides in their Princeton residence with their Indigenous and Cultural Services Program. They also ensure the delivery of non-denominational spiritual care programs for their tenants. On this unceded territory that we build on, Cahdco has strong beliefs that reconciliation is a priority in housing. We strive to learn more about prioritizing acts of reconciliation in development and how to transfer that knowledge to our non- and faith-based clients.

Alison Elliott

Project Coordinator

January 25, 2022