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New permitting strategy will help build homes faster

By Richmond Sentinel

Published 11:36 PST, Mon January 16, 2023

The province 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. While the single application window is being established over the coming months, permit and authorization decisions will be expedited through a cross-ministry team focused solely on processing housing permits. The Housing Action Task Force includes decision-makers, information technology systems, project managers, and policy support teams working together to speed up processing.

A co-ordinated provincial approach is also expected to make application reviews more streamlined for First Nations, which are consulted on each provincial authorization.

“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.”

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.”

The Ministry of Water, Land, and Resource Stewardship is leading the Housing Action Task Force and cross-government work to improve timing and transparency of permitting processes to support sustainable economic development, housing, and infrastructure, while maintaining high levels of environmental protection. The Permitting Strategy for Housing is supported by an initial investment of 42 new full-time positions. Once those positions are filled, the team can be increased to 203 positions.

Provincial housing-related development authorizations and permits fall across several ministries: Environment and Climate Change Strategy; Forests; Transportation and Infrastructure; and Water, Land, and Resource Stewardship. Recent progress on housing includes changes to the Housing Supply Act to set targets in municipalities with the greatest need as well as to the Strata Property Act to open up more rental options and more housing for families.

“Provincial permitting and authorization is a significant factor in the time needed to approve housing development,” said Jen Ford, president of the Union of BC Municipalities. “This new initiative responds to requests from our members for the streamlining of provincial processes. The additional resources to improve cross-ministry co-ordination are welcomed and we look forward to the launch of a single-application process.”

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