Before you build the housing, build support
Minimize opposition for development success
You’ve identified a need for your new housing development idea. You have a vision to bring affordable housing to a vulnerable tenant base in your community, and you can’t wait to get started on the development process.
To your disappointment, you soon discover that not everyone shares your enthusiasm.
Every housing development project faces at least some resistance, for many different reasons. Public opposition to new affordable housing projects often stems from anxiety over increased traffic or misconceptions about increases in crime rates, declining property values, or lack of opportunity for input. Whether perceived or real, issues like these can create barriers to acceptance.
It’s important to recognize that some opponents may be masking more deeply held biases towards the tenant groups you’re serving (an example of this is NIMBYism).
Knowing that at least some opposition to your development project is inevitable, how should you prepare? Here are some ideas to consider.
Get started with this step early.
Building support is a fundamental aspect of the development process.
Facing this early on will have a profound impact on how the rest of your project goes. It should be one of the first things you consider on your development journey.
Consider how you and your supporters will address concerns and biases from the opposition. For example, you may want to prepare evidence to support the need for affordable housing in this community and to debunk myths around the negative impacts of affordable development.
Build support where it counts.
Start by asking yourself a few key questions.
What support do I absolutely need in order to move forward with this project? What support would be beneficial? Who can help me gain the support I need?
Build out a list of your stakeholders, including key decision-makers and those who advise them (i.e. politicians, planners, etc.). Think about whose buy-in you’ll need to build long-term support within the community. This will be important even after your housing is completed to help change the conversation for future projects.
Make a plan.
Once you’ve identified your stakeholders, create an engagement plan. Your plan should include the specific target messaging you will use for each stakeholder.
Consider the following as you build out your plan:
- Begin public consultations as soon as you have something substantial to bring to the table. Be sure to make written updates available to help avoid miscommunication.
- Hold open houses to show off your plans and clearly explain the benefits of your project.
- Start with something everyone can agree on (i.e. that a problem exists and it needs a solution).
- Come to an agreement that “doing nothing” will not solve the problem.
- Listen to your stakeholders and validate their concerns.
- Take constructive suggestions into account.
- Have a media strategy. Be proactive and invite the media in early to get your story out there. For larger projects, or ones with a significant amount of resistance, you might want to consider hiring a public relations specialist to assist.
It might not be possible to win over everyone, but taking a proactive approach to attract allies and manage relationships well will be critical to the success of your project.
Want to learn more about the next steps in building support?
Looking for a better understanding of the entire development process, from start to finish?
ONPHA’s got you covered!
Our online course Ready, Set, (Re)Build is a must for those looking to dive into the world of non-profit housing development and redevelopment and succeed in the modernized social housing landscape. By the end of this course, you’ll walk away with a toolkit to help you get started with your own development project and a hands-on activity to help you create a robust development plan.
It’s not too late to register for our spring 2022 offering! Courses start April 5th. Register today or sign-up to be notified about future course offerings.