The Housing Again Bulletin, sponsored by Raising the Roof as a partner in Housing Again.
A monthly electronic bulletin highlighting what people are doing to put housing back on the public agenda across Canada and around the world, sponsored by Raising the Roof as part of the Housing Again partnership.
News for May, 2007
Dealing with Community Opposition to Affordable Housing
Convincing governments—municipal, provincial and federal—to fund enough affordable housing in Canada is an ongoing struggle for communities, especially in the absence of a national affordable housing strategy. This challenge, however, is often only half the battle. Affordable housing developers, including municipalities, private developments and community groups quite often face resistance and hostility from neighbours and ratepayers groups during the planning stages of their projects. Community opposition to affordable housing development, known as NIMBYism (Not in My Backyard), can often be a major impediment, which developers and community leaders are facing head on.
Toronto City Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti believes the City of Toronto has found a way to avoid the often inevitable community opposition to affordable housing development. Councillor Mammoliti is the chair of the Toronto Affordable Housing Committee, a standing committee the city created to facilitate the creation of more affordable housing units—at least 1,000 units per year as promised by Mayor David Miller.
“Toronto can be an example for the rest of the country because this committee is cutting through all the not-in-my-backyard objections—most especially from the local councillors who often stall and sabotage new affordable housing,” Mammoliti told Housing Again.
The responsibilities of Toronto’s Affordable Housing Committee include making recommendations on affordable housing policies, such as land-use and social policy, which facilitate creating new affordable housing and maintaining the existing supply. The committee also allocates funding and financing to successful proponents.
Perhaps most importantly, Mammoliti said, the committee has the power, upon the recommendation of the Deputy City Manager, to take appropriate action when affordable housing planning applications experience “unnecessary and exceptional delays” in the development review process.
Toronto’s committee has approved this year’s first round of proposals, including 10 proposals for more than 800 units of affordable housing, and Mammoliti promises they will approve two more rounds this fiscal year. The recommendations, however, haven’t made it through council, but the councillor appears confident there won’t be any NIMBYism amongst his peers.
“Toronto has decided it will not even entertain NIMBY arguments,” Mammoliti said.
As Toronto appears to have found its own unique way to circumvent NIMBYism, other communities across Canada are also developing their own solutions and resources.
There are ways, says Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, that municipalities can reduce the length of the approval process for affordable housing. CMHC has developed several resources including Fast Tracking of Affordable Housing,
Education and Awareness Programs to Combat NIMBY Attitudes, and Streamlining the Development Approval Process.
The HomeComing Community Choice Coalition has also developed a guide, now in its second printing, called Yes in My Backyard to help affordable housing developers deal with NIMBYism. The tool kit is an excellent resource for housing developers to help them understand what to expect, prepare for the community consultation process and navigate community opposition.
Some of their ideas include:
· Training professionals in problem-solving skills;
· Preparing research and background material and disseminating it widely;
· Facilitating consultation with neighbours and community groups early on in the planning process;
· Establishing clear feedback tools;
· Getting support from local councillors and municipal leaders;
· Being prepared to negotiate problems and issues; and
· Using third party interventions to settle disputes and build consensus.
2007 Innovation Award Winner Les Maisons Transitionnelles 03
In this second year of Eva’s Initiatives Award for Innovation, which is sponsored by CIBC, three winners were recognized for their outstanding and unique work with homeless youth. Each winning organization received a prize of $5,000. Eva’s Initiatives received 66 applications from organizations working with homeless youth in ten provinces and territories. A seven-member panel, knowledgeable about services for homeless youth across Canada, reviewed all applications and selected three winners from among the many applicants with impressive and innovative projects underway in communities across the county. The three winners for 2007, recognized for their models of integrated supports for homeless youth, were - Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs, for their Kelowna Downtown Youth Centre; Saskatoon Community Youth Arts Programming Inc., for their Urban Canvas Project, and this month’s community spotlight, Les Maisons Transitionnelles 03 operated by Elizabeth House Foundation for their housing and support program for young parents. Elizabeth House is a private “re-adaption” centre in Montreal, funded by the Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services, providing a continuum of second line treatment services, both residential and external, to young parents. In operation for 39 years, programs include residential services, a day centre and school, facilitated educational groups for young mothers and pregnant teens, and a nursery program and family assistance program, where families living in the community with young children receive ongoing support. Last year, Elizabeth House opened Les Maisons Transitionnelles 03 (On Our Own), transitional, affordable housing for single parent families headed by young women 16 to 24 years old with very young children (newborn to 2 years old). In a supportive environment, the young mothers can get help developing the skills they need to become fully independent.Elizabeth House strives to provide a comfortable, caring, age-appropriate environment, and a range of services, which assist clients to develop socially and emotionally, and to adopt a healthy lifestyle. The involvement of family members is encouraged and facilitated, said Executive Director Linda Schachtler. A total of 18 two and three bedroom apartments, complete with laundry facilities, as well as a secure play area for children, and a communal area where groups can meet have been renovated. The tenants of the O3 project are young mothers (with their babies) who are ready for independent living with minimal support but have little or no family or community support, or are in financial difficulty.Young mothers taking part in the O3 project live with their peers as part of a community. Support programs offered are based on individual needs, which include learning how to manage money and how to budget, accessing community services, finding a job, and collective cooking. “Supporting a young mother’s integration into the community benefits the mother, her child and the community,” Schachtler said. “What the community gives to these young women they will give back. The community gains a fully contributing member, and the mother gains a network of support, which in turn enhances her ability to parent her child.”
UN-HABITAT Recognizes Critical Role of Youth
At the Youth Assembly of the World Urban Forum in Vancouver last year 500 youth delegates representing hundreds of youth-led organizations recommended the establishment of a Fund for Youth-Led Development, as part of their Youth Engagement Strategy. Under the sponsorship of the Government of Norway, the UN-Habitat Governing Council decided at its meeting in Nairobi last month to establish a youth fund. The fund will be an important mechanism for ensuring the sustainability and expansion of the agency’s efforts to support youth-led development.