The advocates’ guide to effective community consultations
We have few opportunities to influence how government and developers operate. However, community consultations offer a chance to make a direct impact on property development in our communities. As a community housing provider, your participation could help determine the number of affordable units in new housing developments.
Under Ontario’s Planning Act, planning is a fundamentally public process. If the local community – during the consultation – does not support a new development, it’s extremely unlikely the local councillor will support it; it would in turn cause them to lose voter support.
Community consultations help ensure your voice is heard.
Ready to make a difference in your community? Here’s how you can make an impact at your area’s next consultation.
Attending a community consultation can be intimidating, especially when asking questions in front of large audiences. Ensure you’ve read all plans and documents relating to the development so you can come prepared with the right questions.
Try to highlight areas of concern and write down questions ahead of time to be prepared.
For instance, the City of Toronto’s website includes project overviews, reports, the city’s Housing Action Plan and policy overviews. Search your city’s website to find consultations in your area.
Think about what to say – and how to say it
People come to community consultations upset and ready to fight. Sometimes these frustrations are very real, but remember: the person receiving the feedback at the consultation is just doing their job. Being a voice of reason in a sea of anger and frustration can get your point across much more effectively than another angry remark.
Choose your spokespeople
Who can best deliver your concerns? Who can ask your questions clearly and calmly? A CEO or Executive Director may to be too busy or may not be a great public speaker. Think critically about who is most impacted by the new development. Is it engaged tenants? Staff? Property managers? Think about what you want to ask and who can hammer the message home.
Share the results with your stakeholders
You went to the consultation, you got the information you needed, now what? The next step is to determine who should receive the information. Who is most impacted? Who needs the information right away? Who needs it later and when?
For instance – loop in your executive director and communications personnel. Determine if tenants should be informed.
Take some time to plan how you will engage with your stakeholders. A simple e-mail may work, but are there groups who need more specific information about a project component. Having a communications plan can ensure the right people get the right message at the right time.
Didn’t get the answers you were after? Check to see if there is a website or e-mail address to sign up for updates. Moderators at consultations should direct you to the best way to receive information.
Want to find consultations in your area? Check out your municipality’s website to see where your next consultation is located.
Consultations matter. They impact how new properties, capital projects and your community can shape and change. Housing providers are leaders in the community.
You can make a difference: your voice matters. Use it!
Speak to ONPHA today at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how you can make the most of your next community consultation.