When considering a new housing project to undertake, it is important to ensure that you are fully engaging those within your own organization. Having staff, board members, tenants, and volunteers in full support of your project from the beginning will not only help with decision-making, but will speed up the project timeline and create an inclusive and intentional environment where everyone can contribute their insights. Clear, consistent communication and an openness to feedback can help avoid uncertainty, delays, and pushback.

Board

When you first propose a project to your board, there may be some hesitancy due to the inherent risk involved in development. This is a fair and reasonable response, as the main role of the board is to guide the organization in a responsible manner, but it is still important that they are in support of moving forward and are enthusiastic about the idea.

Connecting the value of the project to your organization’s mission or to your organizational strategy can help convey the importance of the project to your board members.

If the board is not convinced that housing development is something they want to undertake, all future project decisions will be difficult and time consuming; if the board is reconsidering the project at every decision point, nothing will get built. Instead, the focus of the board should be on deciding what is the best way forward.

Staff

In a multi-faceted organization, staff support can provide important perspective and insight to a project.

If your organization is already familiar with housing, a staff member who has experience with the long-term operations of a building may suggest small design changes that would improve the long-term function of the building or help to avoid potential issues. A staff member who works directly with tenants could provide input on what type of units are in high demand.

Adding a building to your organization’s portfolio will mean an increase in work for staff across all departments, whether your team already has one hundred buildings or whether you have none. Addressing how capacity will be handled for any future sites can alleviate feelings of uncertainty. Consider the unique roles and responsibilities throughout all stages of housing development from early pre-feasibility through to construction and operations. Identify who will be tasked with completing the different responsibilities within these stages and when. Answering as many of these questions as possible upfront will provide assurance and direction to your team.

Tenants and Volunteers

Engaging your tenants and volunteers early in any housing project is important. An organization undertaking a development project can engage with its tenants in a variety of ways. You could have them join a committee that will help direct and oversee the project through key decisions and feedback, or host an open house to gather input at specific milestones. Alternatively, you could keep tenants and volunteers informed by promoting updates through newsletters or a website.

Having tenants and volunteers involved in a project is an opportunity to leverage a range of skills and perspectives that may not be present within your staff or board. Pre-existing tenants will have particular knowledge about what living in your organization’s buildings is like. Additionally, having your tenants and volunteers be supportive of the development will give you a foothold within the community when it is time to begin engaging with them. Having people advocate and support the project within the neighbourhood can help reduce pushback from the larger community.

Ultimately, having support from your board, staff, tenants and volunteers will provide the foundation to a strong project that can utilize knowledge, experience, and perspectives of a larger diverse group. Development is difficult, but knowing that your organization is supported by its greatest stakeholders will make all the difference.

We are hiring volunteer board members!

Are you passionate about the City of Ottawa and affordable housing? Do you want to make a real impact in your community? Do you want to grow your professional development skills alongside a thoughtful group of volunteers? If this sounds like you, you should consider running for Cahdco’s Board of Directors!