9 ways the community housing sector innovated in 2021
Get inspired by these creative solutions that housing providers found to support their tenants and communities, and learn more about the projects that are making a difference in the sector.
#1 Helped prevent evictions for high-risk tenancies
As the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Thames Valley focused on supporting the homeless population through programs like Housing First, they also wanted to ensure they were preventing homelessness in the first place. By recognizing that affordable housing alone wasn’t the only contributing factor to a thriving community, they found an opportunity to partner with housing providers to help prevent evictions.
During the last year, they worked closely with their largest community housing provider – London Middlesex Community Housing – to develop Housing Always, a sustainable and impactful solution to prevent evictions for high-risk tenancies. By partnering with the City of London Homeless Prevention Team, Coordinated Access, and the Housing Services Manager, they leveraged existing staff resources and connected tenants to formal and informal support services based on individual needs.
#2 Provided funding support to help solve complex social challenges
In an effort to incubate new, innovative ideas and accelerate solutions that address Canada’s most pressing housing issues, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) partnered with HelpSeeker to help people find the services they need, when they need them the most.
In 2020, CMHC announced a three-year, $2.5M investment to support HelpSeeker’s mapping of the social safety net supply and to scale its navigation app across the country. The goal is to make it easier for those looking for help to find the services they need and provide decision-makers with real-time information about what and where services are in demand.
#3 Created more inclusive communities
To complement the Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) Housing Toolkit, DSO Housing Navigators created a series of virtual workshops to help people with developmental disabilities create their own individualized housing and support plans. Throughout the workshops, participants were able to envision what a life of independence looks like, and with the tools and resources provided, they were able to create a truly individualized housing plan with a defendable budget.
To date, 600+ people have participated in the series, and due to popular demand, the workshops will continue to be offered regularly.
#4 Created opportunities for skilled trades training to combat youth homelessness
Powered by the Home Depot Canada Foundation and launched in 2021, TradeWorx supports a coalition of 10 Canadian employment social enterprises (ESEs) that help bridge systemic gaps and prevent youth homelessness. The program allows partners across Canada to coordinate efforts to provide at-risk youth with the skills training needed to secure a long-term, well-paying career in construction, resulting in the ability to afford and retain housing.
Unlike traditional employment training programs, ESEs (such as Blue Door’s Construct) provide extensive wraparound supports and interventions throughout the program to address the barriers that threaten to propel the youth into homelessness. Supports include wages/living allowances to prevent evictions, food programming, psychotherapy, childcare, transportation, and emergency assistance.
Amidst a global pandemic, the program expects to see 100 youths receive skills training and wraparound supports by the end of 2021.
#5 Provided safe and accessible activities for residents during the pandemic
The COVID pandemic created many social and mental health barriers. That’s why Hamilton East Kiwanis Non-Profit Homes Inc looked for ways to provide safe and accessible activities for their residents during the past year.
Their dedicated group of volunteers, known as the South Mountain Planning Team (SMPT), provided outreach to residents during the pandemic. They created a greater sense of community connection and caring through activities such as: cultivating a community garden, coordinating neighbourhood beautification contests, hosting outdoor movie nights, and more!
#6 Retrofitted a building to be net-zero energy and net-zero greenhouse gas emission
Ottawa Community Housing collaborated with the Natural Resource Canada’s Green Infrastructure Program to bring a four-unit block of townhomes built in the 1960s to net-zero energy and net-zero greenhouse gas emissions while the tenants remained in place.
By creating net-zero energy and net-zero greenhouse gas emissions buildings, housing providers can use the energy savings to help repay the capital investments and operational expenses, improving the affordability of the units.
#7 Used mass timber to assemble a project in record time
A supportive housing project is currently under construction in Kitchener by the YWCA. The building will become home to 41 women experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness and will provide them with access to life-changing resources 24/7.
Funded by the federal government’s Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) and financially supported by the City of Kitchener, the project represents an innovative solution in affordable housing by Element5 Limited Partnership and Edge Architects. Thanks to the panelized and optimized mass timber design, the team will assemble the building on-site in record time, a core requirement for RHI funding.
#8 Brightened community spirit and helped keep residents safe during the pandemic
Through a resident communication campaign, Precision Property Management was able to make sure residents complied with lockdown and safety measures during the pandemic. The campaign included a motivational door hanger, an inspirational t-shirt, and a resident newsletter.
#9 Partnered to provide housing faster to those who need it the most
As part of the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan, the City of Toronto committed to creating 1,000 new modular homes in Toronto. The Modular Housing Initiative represents an innovative and cost-effective way to build small-scale infill housing.
Are you interested in learning more ways in which community housing providers have been innovating? Check out ONPHA’s Innovation Showcase to view member projects from previous years.
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