Speedy, 5 letters. If that's the cross word clue, the answer is RAPID. And rapid is what you will have to be take advantage of this program. In this note, we explain why you need to be in starter blocks now.
THE RHI Program
Immediately before the throne speech in September, the Government of Canada announced it would be committing 1 Billion Dollars to support a "Rapid Housing Initiative" (RHI). The goal being to support the construction or acquisition of housing in 2021. The goal of the program is to create 3000 new units either through acquisition or modular construction. The program is aimed at people with severe housing needs or living in shelters because of COVID-19.
On Tuesday of this week, CMHC provided some program guidelines, summarized below:
- Eligibility: Municipal, Provincial and Territorial governments, Indigenous governing bodies, non-profits.
- Affordability Period: Minimum of 20 years. Selection criteria favours longer periods. Affordability is an income test – all households must be paying 30% or less of gross income.
- Eligible projects: Modular construction, which may include the acquisition of land; conversion of a non-residential building; rehabilitation of a building where units were previously lost from the housing stock. We've confirmed informally with CMHC that a hotel, for example, would be a non-residential building. All projects are intended to be residential.
- Minimum Contribution: $1M
- There are two streams of funding. The first will be the placement of $500M dollars through municipalities. The City of Toronto, for example, received 200M to support its housing objectives. the Second is project based and will be distributed by CMHC
- Project Stream Funding applications are due by the end of the year.
- Occupancy: 12 months from the agreement (So, approx. February 2022)
PHILOSOPHICAL UNDERPINNINGS – WHO SHOULD APPLY
Readers will quickly discern the philosophical underpinnings of this Program: deliver new housing; deliver it in 12 months; serve low income tenants; do not displace any existing housing.
This philosophical basis, and the rules that follow end up defining a fairly narrow set of circumstances in which non-profits that could take advantage of the program:
- You have extra land that is zoned and ready to go to build in 12 months. If so, you need a contract with a modular builder and you will be in the program's wheelhouse.
- You want to buy an existing building, but not one where people live now. A hotel, for example, works. Conversion of non-residential sites – like an office would take some time, so be careful about that – remember – you have 12 months. In any case, you need a purchase agreement.
- You want to buy land and then build modular homes, then you can apply – but you need both a building and an agreement.
- You have an operating subsidy to be able to run a rent geared to income facility. It is not clear whether the tenant will need to have a true rent geared to income lease or whether the incoming rent is set in reference to income and continued in the normal course from that starting point.
Ultimately, you will need to look at the rules of the program and come to your own decision, but if the above resonate with you, a close look at the program is warranted.
PROJECT STREAM SCORING:
If you do submit, pay close attention to the scoring rules and eligibility requirements. Here are some of the highlights:
- You need operating experience of at least 5 years. You must demonstrate operational funding. The longer the operating subsidy is secured, the higher the score.
- You need to have built in the last 5 years, or you will need to have entered into a Stipulated price Contract.
- The less money you need to deliver the same number of units, the better. That is, your own contributions or financing counts.
- The faster you deliver, the higher the score. (So a purchase agreement closing after award will get good marks on this)
- There is an advantage if you own the land already.
- The longer you commit to affordability, the higher the score
- There is an advantage for projects targeting Black Canadians, Women and Children, and Indigenous People.
- Modular units also pick up points for energy efficiency and accessibility.
If operating subsidy is not an issue for you, and you own land that is ready to go, you are in the best possible position to take advantage of this program. If you have access to land or a line on an old building, you are also in the wheelhouse – but you will need to get that land under contract before you submit your application or your score will suffer. All to say, for interested non-profits, the "Rapid" part starts now. Whether you need a modular contract or an Agreement of Purchase and Sale or both, you basically have to mid December to sort that out. Its time to get moving.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.