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Posted by on Jul 2021 in All Stories, Slider, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Community housing development: Key steps in the process

A modern apartment building set against the sky.

ONPHA recently gathered together community housing leaders to discuss the dos and don’ts of housing development in our Developing community housing – lessons from the frontline workshopOur panel included Anna Froehlich, Project Manager at Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation and Cahdco (CCOC’s development corporation). Read on to get Anna’s breakdown of the key elements and steps to consider when developing community housing. 

Project components 

When beginning a new project there are three basic components you need to have sorted out before you can get started: 

Capital to fund the development, 

Land to build on, and 

Capacity – team members, expertise to run the project. 

Once these pieces are in place, your development project can truly begin. Anna likens these elements to a three-legged stool: if any of the pieces is missing, the project can’t stand on its own. 

Roles and responsibilities of the development team 

It’s important to think about the development team as you bring the project components together. Your development team represents the ‘capacity’ component of the project. There can be overlap between the different roles, or one party may be responsible for more than one component. The main roles, as Anna represents them, are: 

The housing provider. The lead in the project that has initiated the development and brings the land and the money. 

The project team. Consists of the consultants, design team and project manager who work on the day-to-day work of the development. 

Property manager. The party who will operate the building once it’s up and running. This is usually the housing provider; it can also be a third-party service contracted by the housing provider. 

Support services. The party providing tenant services and supports. Again, this is either the housing provider or a contractor/partner brought in by the housing provider. 

Funders and lenders. The party or parties funding or lending the money for the project; often the municipality, CMHC, a financial institution, or a grant provider.  

Regulators. The party that’s setting the regulations and parameters in which you’re developing; often the municipality, your service manager, or CMHC. 

Stages of real estate development 

A lot of work must be done well before the physical construction of a new development can begin. Cahdco thinks about the development process in terms of four key steps. 

Design analysis and feasibility (2 months – 2+ years) 

A group of professionals work together in a collaborative workspace.

The timeline for this stage can vary, especially if your organization is missing one of the three main project components (capital, land, capacity) to begin with and you need time to sort those details out. During this stage, your organization will be deciding on the nature of the development and all the details you need to know to move forward including: 

  • identifying and selecting a site 
  • conducting a site investigation which may include a building condition assessment (if you’re redeveloping an existing building), an environmental site assessment, etc. 
  • soliciting an architect for preliminary designs 
  • consulting with the municipality regarding zoning and what is permitted on the site 
  • identifying your project partners
  • drafting capital and operating budgets 
  • identifying and securing funding/financing 
  • securing board approval  

Design development (4 months – 12+ months)

Blueprints sit on a table with pens and a protractor.

This happens once you have the project components in place. At this point: 

  • consultants are brought in to design the project and the architect and design team take on more of a leadership role in the project as they refine and finalize the project design 
  • partnerships are confirmed and established 
  • your ownership of the land is finalized 
  • capital and operating budgets are completed 
  • municipal approvals, including site plan, rezoning, and building permits are obtained
  • construction is ready to begin 

Construction (12 – 18 months) 

A crane sits beside a building under construction.

The development is actually being built. The construction manager takes over from the architect as the project lead. In this phase: 

  • the housing provider and project management team lead the construction administration, overseeing contract administration and budget 
  • testing and inspections are ongoing
  • necessary municipal occupancy permits are obtained 
  • the construction manager identifies deficiencies in the construction while preparing the building for occupancy 
  • final costs are examined and compared to the original budget 

Operations (20 – 50+ years) 

The front of a modern apartment building.

The building is completed and people are moving in. This is when the housing provider takes over and manages the building and its tenancies. There is still some construction-related work during the first year of operation. At this time: 

  • building commissioning is occurring – testing HVAC, security systems, etc. to confirm that the building systems are functioning and the operations staff knows how to manage them 
  • renting out units 
  • completing project documentation 
  • the warranty period is active: your team is working closely with the construction manager to resolve any flaws found in the first year 
  • the property management is working to refine building operations 

The development process can be daunting, but Anna’s breakdown of development components, roles, and steps make it easier to see where to focus your efforts and resources at certain points in the process.  

Want to learn more about housing development? Check out Ready, set re(build) – ONPHA’s online course designed to help you succeed in the modernized social housing landscape. The next offering of this course will be in September 2021. Have questions about housing development? Contact us at We’re always happy to hear from you, and to help! 

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