Partnering with Nonprofits to Solve the Social Housing Crisis

August 22, 2018

West_Vancouver_22Aug18_Website_Social-Housing_LandingPage_679x220.png

Housing is a significant issue for many vulnerable residents in British Columbia. Social housing should be a top priority for municipal governments and it cannot be ignored. In downtown Eastside Vancouver — many are suffering from homelessness and severe addiction problems — this is an example of how significant the issue can become. Many other communities across the province are now experiencing similar trends due to increased population, higher housing costs, lack of subsidized housing, or cuts in other social services. While housing is primarily a social issue, the financial concerns must be considered as well.

It is important for municipalities to engage experts in the field to help develop a concise and balanced strategy for social housing. Politics dominate the conversation around social housing, but political motivations should not drive the solutions. Budgetary concerns are often a main barrier to identifying workable solutions, but with numerous provincial funding opportunities for social housing, minimal municipal investment combined with provincial funding can achieve significant positive outcomes.
If not handled correctly, unsuccessful attempts to solve the social housing crisis could cost a municipality in the following ways:

  • Reputation: A failed attempt to deliver a social housing solution could damage the public’s trust in their elected officials and administration
  • Time: It could result in high turnover and having to train new staff
  • Dollars: There is both the loss of taxpayer dollars, plus the lost opportunity to focus on other initiatives
  • Credibility: With damaged trust, the public might also lose faith in other initiatives

Developing a Strategy to Serve the Community

Collaboration is key to a successful strategy — nonprofits and municipalities are best poised to work together to successfully serve the community. In our experience, BDO sees how nonprofits advocate for the best results, while building partnerships with other organizations in a more nimble and less restrictive manner as compared to municipalities. The nonprofit’s expertise can create a successful housing facility, including safety for residents, alignment with other service providers, and access to basic needs such as transportation, food, and medical services.

From a financial standpoint, a partnership with nonprofits also helps leverage other government funds (such as federal, provincial, or regional district). For example, if the municipality makes a small investment, such as selling, donating or leasing the land, the provincial or federal government often help with the capital cost of the building and some or all of the ongoing operational costs.

Municipalities typically do not have the same on-the-ground connections with the people in need of public services. The housing experts work in the community on a daily basis and have the expertise for best serving the public. This ensures that every dollar invested is making the highest impact in the community. Outreach is also important; municipalities can only ensure success if they know the people in the community and can build trusted relationships. A consistent connection builds trust with vulnerable residents and assists them in obtaining appropriate housing. Through experience, BDO has learned that different communities have varying needs and constraints. One size does not fit all, and it is important to explore options.

National Perspective

Canada is facing similar issues across the country. The federal government’s recently announced National Housing Strategy is expected to re-engage in affordable housing by bringing together the public, private, and non-profit sectors. The strategy is expected to focus on the most vulnerable Canadians, including women and children fleeing family violence, seniors, Indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, those dealing with mental health and addiction issues, veterans and young adults.

It will adopt a “whole-of-government” approach that aligns housing with other important goals like creating jobs, increasing access to healthcare and education, and preventing violence against women.

BDO’s Holistic Approach

To help those who are struggling to obtain necessary services, the solution must go beyond building social housing to include wraparound services as well. Municipalities need to partner with the appropriate nonprofits to engage with the community. BDO supports this holistic approach, with emphasis on long-term outcomes, not just immediate needs. We demonstrate this approach in our service to nonprofits. We focus on providing strategic assistance through all phases from strategic planning, developing new business cases, through to the bookkeeping, auditing, and filing tax forms.

Contact BDO today to find out how we can help leverage your resources to make a greater difference in the community.