It is difficult to understand the depth and breadth of affordable housing issues without good data. Furthermore, the data needs to be communicated to precisely identify the problems and how they might be addressed. The three topics described here work together and are crucial towards forming effective policies, programs and actions to address affordable housing issues. Below are a few of the tools which are useful in understanding affordable housing problems and how to address them.
- Community workshops. Hosting a facilitated community-wide workshop is a great way to learn and understand what is happening in a community. Effective action plans often start with these types of events.
- Housing handbooks. A critical piece of information is a document which includes many sources of important information about how to find affordable housing, support programs, tenant rights, landlord responsibilities and key contacts for help.
- Track rental vs. ownership. Over time, trends develop within communities which point to stresses and usually indicate when intervention is required. The amount and location of rental versus ownership housing is an important measure to track the conditions within neighbourhoods and is sometimes an early sign of disinvestment.
- Point in time counts. This is usually an on-street survey of people who are homeless, but it can also count people who are working and in dire need of more housing options. Point in time counts can be conducted using community resources once every two years.
- Conduct feasibility studies. New forms of housing need a way to become accepted (e.g. garden and garage suites, tiny homes, secondary suites, etc.). Feasibility studies are the first step to determine the level of support and demand for a particular type of affordable housing.
- Address NIMBY (not in my back yard) issues with facts. NIMBY can halt the development of affordable housing. NIMBY is nearly always based on fear and not facts. There needs to be information which counters the negative aspects of NIMBY.
- Tap into local sources of information. Using local websites such as Kijiji or real estate sites can be an advantage to relying on traditional sources of information such as Statistics Canada or CMHC. Local sources will usually provide you with much more timely information about changes occurring in the housing market, months before traditional sources.
- Develop a housing business plan. More detailed than a strategy, the business plan identifies the areas with the greatest need, sets targets and describes exactly what will be done, by who, when and what it will costs. If housing business plans are updated on a regular basis, they serve as great ways to monitor and track progress over time.