Plan Development

This document sets out some points to help with getting started. It is organized in three elements. These elements are somewhat sequential. But because they interrelate they may also be iterative in the very early stages.

  1. Organizational readiness
  2. Engage partners
  3. Resources

Other Resource Centre documents deal with specific stages of the planning, including needs assessment and consultations.

Organizational readiness

Appoint a Project manager

In any complex, multi-faceted process of work, the project manager is the one who ensures that all elements of work move forward to successful completion. This person will also help manage many of the key relationships, be responsible for the flow of information and managing the workplan and timelines. For many service managers, this person will also be doing a lot of the substantive work on the plan.

Engage Political leadership and senior management

Depending on local circumstances, your political leaders will have a strong interest in the plan or will be less engaged. This may also apply to your senior management (e.g. CAO, Finance Director). This will shape your decisions about how much information should be provided at what stages as you get started.

Determine what political involvement you need during the planning process (e.g. through briefings or via membership on the steering committee) to ensure successful completion.

Establish a steering committee

In most cases a steering committee or task force will need to be established. Decisions about its composition and its role may depend on the answers to questions such as these:

  • What is needed from the steering committee or task force? It may be a mix of expert input, political legitimacy, and stakeholder buy-in, relationship-building with key partners, or visibility, momentum against competing internal pressures?
  • Is the steering committee a place where major partners come together and provide overall guidance and buy-in?
  • Is the steering committee a place where major partners hash out the issues and directions for the content of the plan?
  • How much energy and resources will you have to support it?
  • Will the steering committee or task force be fairly hands-on will it be sounding board or check-in point, when it comes to direction-setting in formulating the plan?

Developing Terms of Reference

The Terms of Reference sets out the basic parameters of the process for developing the plan. It serves as a guide to partners, stakeholders, and the public as the process unfolds. It will help get everyone “on the same page” and is one means to manage expectations about what the planning process is and is not.

The endorsement or approval of the Terms of Reference can be an opportunity to secure needed resource commitments from senior management, Council, and also key partners.

Terms of Reference will usually include:

  • A statement of what the plan development process is to achieve – what are the anticipated outcomes
  • Some goals and guiding principles and project scope
  • Project team governance and reporting structure
  • Roles for committee members, including administration support
  • Identifying components of the work
  • The approach to needs assessment and public consultation
  • workplan – timelines and budget

The Terms of Reference may sometimes include other matters such as:

  • a preliminary statement of the key issues to be addressed by the plan;
  • a preliminary statement of the vision or goals of the strategy in housing or homelessness
  • procedural principles or approaches to be applied in the planning process

A good example of a terms of reference comes from the B.C. Capital District: Regional Housing Strategy – terms of reference 

The City of  Peterborough has recently approved their scoping document for their Housing and Homelessness Plan Peterborough-Housing and Homelessness Plan definition

Assemble baseline information:

  • Existing housing strategies
  • Existing homelessness strategies
  • Housing need and demand studies
  • Joint Local Transfer Plans
  • Other relevant plans – Homelessness Partnering Strategy, human service plans, Municipal Official Plans, etc.

Review existing material to look for existing themes and establish basic concept and scope for the plan. This is a chance to sketch the overall vision and objectives for the planning process (not necessarily for the plan itself). In most cases this will set some basic parameters that will inform the terms of reference and the basic staff and budget decisions to carry out the development of the plan.

Engagement – Bringing key partners on board

Develop consultation strategy for engaging key partners whose engagement or support is essential for a successful planning process.

Departmental and partner relationships

For many Service Managers, these key relations will involve some of the following:

  • Determine your relationship to the division/department responsible for urban planning (Planning Act), if that is not you. This will usually be important in regard to housing data and in regard to elements of the plan that deal with market housing.
  • If you are leading from housing, determine your relationship to the homelessness lead, or vice-versa
  • Determine your relationship to the “community entity” for HPS, if that is not you as the Service Manager municipality.
  • Identify are the key external partners, e.g. major funders or service providers or networks
  • Identify the stakeholders that can make or break the plan politically

Other municipal departments

Your city/county partner and local municipalities will be important if your context is 2-tier, county/separated city, or DSSAB. Questions to answer include:

  • How does housing and homelessness planning relate to other relationships of you as Service Manager Municipality to these partners?
  • If your division/department does not have a relationship (or the primary one) to these partners, which division/department does?
  • What are the existing collaborative institutions/processes?

Other funders, providers, and networks

The relationship with other main funders/co-ordinators of homeless-related services and housing supports will be important. For example, in different communities this may be the United Way or the HPS community entity if it is not your municipality.

Your particular environment may involve particular bodies that need to be key partners.  For example, are there complex or active provider networks, key roles by other funders, specific powerful housing or service providers?


The Local Plans are broad housing systems plans which address all elements of the housing continuum. To accomplish a good plan requires a broad set of resources and skills. Some Service Managers may have these resources in house while others may need to access some elements of the plan preparation process externally.

Skills required to develop the plan:

  • Research and data analysis – such as to commission and use housing market studies
  • Evaluating options
  • Financial skills – assessing scheme viability
  • Communication including writing effective strategies and action plans
  • Strategic vision – making the connections to other public services
  • Project and performance management
  • Negotiation and influencing.

Contracting out or not

Some of the discrete elements of the plan preparation that can be done by outside contractors include:

  • The housing needs assessment
  • Homelessness service review and needs assessment
  • Public and stakeholder consultation
  • Information-gathering and analysis of specific issue areas (e.g. supportive housing; Aboriginal issues)

Terms of reference for consultants

Links to consultants list

Working groups

In some cases it may be helpful to have working groups on specific aspects of the process or content. For example, this may be helpful on the needs assessment, managing public participation, or sorting through issues on homeless-related services.

Decisions will be needed on the relationship of any working groups to the other elements of the planning process, to staff responsible for the planning process, and to the steering committee.

Using existing networks

Many planning processes will benefit from making use of existing networks such as existing community advisory bodies, provider networks. This can save time and effort as well as help you access a rich variety of information and expertise.

This also enhances the legitimacy of the planning process and can help with buy-in of internal and external parties. It respects the role, interests, and knowledge of major stakeholders.