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A 3 step-by-step guide to securing financing for your next affordable housing project

This piece was originally produced for the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association in December, 2023

What will the future of housing in Canada look like? Non-profit housing providers serve a growing and thriving population. They work to build a deep sense of community and create an environment where housing offers opportunities, not daily challenges.

Whether a non-profit is planning to repair or retrofit an existing affordable building, acquire real estate to preserve Canada’s existing affordable housing stock, or build new units, the need for flexible, timely and adequate financing is a top concern.

So how can non-profits prepare and minimize delays? The following guide is to help navigate the financing process for housing project.

Step 1: Have the right financial documents ready

  • Historical financial statements: Gather up three years of organizational financial statements, plus 12 months of operating statements, property taxes, utility bills and insurance costs.
  • Rent roll / tenancy summary: Details should include occupancy dates, monthly rental rate, additional rental costs (i.e., parking or utilities) and unit type.
  • Pro-forma operating statement: Using reasonable data to show a lender that you are realistically planning for the future success of the project.
  • Ownership information / confirmation of beneficial ownership: The lender will need to know who owns and controls the property and verify that they’re working with an authorized party.
  • Appraisal: Submit a full report from an accredited appraiser; must be less than six months old.
  • Environmental site assessment: Ensure that you have a full report from an accredited firm that’s been conducted within the past 12 months.
  • Building condition assessment: Provide a full building condition assessment that’s been conducted within the past 12 months.
  • Construction Budget: New build or retrofit budgets should be reviewed by a quantity surveyor – a construction industry professional – before submitting.

Step 2: How to work with a bank

  • Reach out via phone or email and develop a relationship with an account manager: A trusting partnership helps everyone move forward.
  • Communicate openly and honestly: Keep the lines of communication open and clear, and always aim for transparency.

Step 3: What a bank needs from a non-profit housing provider

  • Timely responses: Responding in a timely manner not only respects a lender’s time but helps projects move forward.
  • Documentation: Whether digital or paper, a well-maintained filing system ensures comprehensive records to support an application.
    Clear timelines: A complete and accurate schedule helps a lender understand the organization’s needs and provides clarity as they move through the approval and funding process

Insights from other non-profits’ experience can be very helpful too. Carol Zoulalian, Executive Director at St. Jude Community Homes, shared some of what was learned when they purchased a building, they had occupied for 20 years:

“Through the buying process we learned the value of a committed development consultant. It’s also very helpful to work with a bank, such as VCIB, that understands non-profits and is willing to partner with you to find solutions that work for your organization.”

Chloe Wong, Account Manager for Commercial Real Estate at VCIB wholeheartedly agrees. “We want to make it easier for non-profit housing providers to make a difference,” she says. “Non-profits and co-ops are often searching for smaller and more flexible loans, but it can be a struggle to get support because it can be a lot of work for a lender. We don’t shy away from putting in that extra effort.”

And it paid off for St. Jude Community Homes. “Now the residents can rest easy.  They were so happy and relieved to know they can continue to stay in their homes which will be operated as affordable, supportive housing in perpetuity,” Carol adds.

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Learn more about VCIB’s social purpose real estate financing in our website. If interested in chatting with VCIB about your financing needs, get in touch.

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