The Province of B.C. is taking another step to tackle the housing crisis by creating a one-stop-shop approach to provincial permitting to help speed up approvals and construction to build more homes.
“Every British Columbian deserves a safe and affordable place to call home. Unfortunately, this simply wasn’t a priority for more than a decade,” said Premier David Eby. “As we turn things around and start to build record levels of housing, we are taking action today to remove obstacles to constructing new homes that families desperately need.”
Currently, authorizations related to homebuilding in B.C. can require multiple provincial permit applications spanning different ministries with different processes. This includes permits related to riparian area approvals, water licences, transportation approvals, road rezonings, contaminated sites, and requirements for heritage inspections.
The new Permitting Strategy for Housing will streamline the process and create a single, co-ordinated approach to housing-related permits and authorization. This will speed up the process and eliminate the need for multiple applications across ministries. The single application window will be established over the coming months.
“Having dedicated resources and a cross-ministry team prioritizing housing permits means we can make significantly more progress on getting British Columbians the housing they need,” said Nathan Cullen, Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship. “Establishing a single-application approach is an investment that will deliver more housing for people faster, and this will also result in immediate and future benefits for the entire natural resources sector.”
“It’s well-known that permitting delays are adding risk and cost across the construction industry at every level, so any effort to speed things up is welcome,” said Chris Atchison, president, BC Construction Association, responding to the announcement.
“We appreciate that the provincial government has made housing construction a fast-track priority for natural resources permitting and look forward to the removal of barriers for other types of permits and a broader range of projects.”
A co-ordinated provincial approach is also expected to make application reviews more streamlined for First Nations, which are consulted on each provincial authorization.
The Permitting Strategy for Housing is supported by an initial investment of 42 new full-time positions. It will prioritize the housing that most urgently needs to be built, such as Indigenous-led projects, BC Housing applications and multiple-unit applications.
Priority will also be given to authorizations and permit approvals for housing projects in municipalities that are subject to the speculation and vacancy tax, because they have the greatest housing shortages, lowest vacancy rates and most demand for housing.
“Housing is a top priority for British Columbians and our government,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Housing. “We are working with municipalities to get more housing built faster. At the same time, we recognize that as a Province we have work to do to speed up our approvals. This new permitting approach is an important step in providing the homes people need.”
[top photo] Home construction underway in Kelowna, photo courtesy of Home Smart Projects.