ARDN Initiatives

Sustainable Housing Initiative (SHI)

Creating Rural Connections

Through Education

Sustainable Housing Initiative (SHI)

Due to a lack of resources and capacity, our rural communities are missing an integral part of the housing continuum. Rural Canada has 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 relocated to larger centres, removing them from their 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 are entitled to access 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.

The ARDN has been collaborating with a number of rural communities and community-based organizations to develop strategic partnerships among stakeholders struggling to address the shortage of affordable housing. The ARDN has started a multi-stakeholder strategy to create more rural-based affordable housing with a goal to promote new partnerships across Canada, leverage existing resources, and allow rural communities to address a growing problem instead of downloading it to the urban centres.

This project will help rural communities build different types of affordable housing. The keys to accomplishing this are to: 1) build capacity by facilitating access to information and resources, and 2) cut costs by sourcing lower-priced services and by having communities work together on shared aspects of their projects.

The demonstration projects will act as a case study that will be the basis for ARDN’s step-by-step guide to build, manage, and operate affordable housing projects. The ARDN will work with each stakeholder to implement this framework, monitor progress, assist with challenges, collect data and report on outcomes. The ultimate outcome of this project will create and test a sustainable model for building and operating affordable housing that does not rely on long-term government support.

Each project will:

  • Support and serve mixed groups that are in any stage of the housing continuum
  • Reduce operational costs by making buildings net zero
  • Reduce operational costs by promoting healthy living through healthy building design utilizing a research-based approach incorporating the principles of psychology of aesthetics
  • Up to 18% reduction in construction costs for 8 communities
  • Up to 12% reduction in construction costs for future communities that adopt tool kit best practices

The ARDN has been working with stakeholders and industry partners, and is developing a framework that will act as a step-by-step path to build, manage, and operate affordable housing projects. The project framework will include templates for creating and conducting an analysis of need and demand to identify the need for affordable housing in the community, an analysis of financial viability, a business plan, and a generic schematic design for building modular-style buildings that could be easily adapted for completing a proforma and permitting. The ARDN will work with each stakeholder to implement this framework, monitor progress, assist with challenges, collect data and report on outcomes.

Additionally, this project will strive to enhance and standardize data collection. For example, homelessness-related data collection in rural Canada, and especially in rural Alberta, is inconsistent and inadequate. While some organizations use the Homeless Individual and Families Information System (HIFIS), this data collection is limited to emergency shelter use, and there are a variety of other data collection programs used between organizations. Our project will ensure useful data collection techniques are standardized and implemented, by requiring participants to gather and share facility use information in a consistent and uniform manner. Standardized data collection processes, techniques and templates will be created and used by all participants. Stakeholders will share information and models of effective practices, in order to improve approaches. Stakeholders will also be directly linked to the expertise of Alberta’s post-secondary sector, for further assistance on data collection, research methods, expertise and opportunities. While initial work will only involve the original stakeholders, once verified, all the information on best practices and the resulting tools will be shared and made available to any community that wishes to use them.

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