Rethinking Partnerships for Affordable Housing: Planning Policy + Design Nexus

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A growing affordability problem in Canadian cities has prompted a renewed commitment of the federal government, complemented with provincial and municipal programs, to increase the supply of affordable rental housing. Consensus has been building across Canada that an effective response requires multi-sectoral partnerships to meet growing local needs within limited resources and capacity. Recently large Canadian cities have joined their efforts with non-profit and private organisations to provide affordable rental housing in mixed-income experimental projects. In this context, the research addresses a significant gap in the evaluation of partnerships, focusing on the nature of multi-agency collaborations in the provision process (design, build, finance, operate). Partnerships capitalise on the effective role of the public sector in the mobilization of resources, the efficiencies of private agencies in the development process (design, build) and the hybridity of the non-profit institutions (management, service delivery). The research develops a conceptual framework, based on the political market model to explain adoption of planning and housing policies by municipalities. The alignment of policy instruments—regulatory, fiscal and financial—is an important determinant of the ability of partnerships to deliver adequate, affordable and sustainable housing. The framework presents a typology of affordable housing partnerships using highlights from case studies in the large Canadian cities—Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. The methodology is based on review of the literature and analysis of innovative developments of mixed-income affordable rental housing projects. Findings suggest that economies of scale and sustained funding are critical for efficient partnerships (design, build and operate). However, their effectiveness often depends on institutional capacity, coalition building/inclusive governance and neighbourhood integration. We argue that a shift from the traditional ‘public-private’ model to multi-sectoral partnerships is required to address the housing crisis in Canadian cities.
partnerships, affordable housing, evaluation, cities