BC government to expedite provincial permitting for new housing

Jan 16 2023, 7:32 pm

Certain new housing projects that need to go through the provincial government’s permitting process, usually because of their location in provincial jurisdiction, will be expedited by new reforms.

Premier David Eby announced today the creation of a “one-stop-shop” approach to improving provincial permitting with the intention of speeding up the construction of homes to generate much-needed affordable housing supply sooner than later. This means proponents will not have to submit multiple applications across provincial ministries.

For example, such projects proposed within the University Endowment Lands (UEL), outside of the University of British Columbia’s campus jurisdiction, would fall under the new processes as the UEL is under provincial jurisdiction.

Examples of the types of provincial permitting include riparian area approvals, water licences, transportation approvals, road rezonings, contaminated sites, and requirements for heritage inspections.

The new processes will prioritize the review of multi-family applications, Indigenous-led projects, and BC Housing applications, as well as authorizations and permit approvals for housing projects in municipalities that are subject to the provincial speculation and vacancy tax, where the housing demand is greatest.

The so-called “Permitting Strategy for Housing” is backed by an initial expansion of 42 new full-time positions in the provincial government’s permitting office, which increases the workforce count to 203 full-time positions.

It’s about “moving them through the process as it stands right now, so they are expedited through that process and get priority. Having that concierge service for those high-priority projects doesn’t address the system itself, so that’s why at the same time we will be reforming and moving the single window process that is more efficient and more effective for everybody,” said Eby during the press conference.

“We think we can take off months and years off of provincial permitting for major developments by reforming the permitting system.”

Eby said the process changes are also in alignment with the provincial government’s ongoing efforts to work with municipal governments to improve their own permitting processes, which accounts for the vast majority of the overall delays.

He added that the housing permitting strategy is part of the provincial government’s forthcoming broader strategy of expediting all provincial permitting, including economic development, investment attraction, and natural resources applications.

“Housing is a top priority for British Columbians and our government,” said Ravi Kahlon, the BC 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 expedited provincial permitting process, the new Housing Supply Act mandating municipal governments to meet new annual quotas on housing approvals, and the creation of a new provincial Ministry of Housing are all part of Eby’s multi-faceted strategy of improving housing affordability. More announcements are expected as the year progresses, including in next month’s 2023 provincial budget reveal.

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