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Province announces 'one-stop shop' for homebuilding permits

The province has unveiled a “one-stop-shop” approach to provincial permitting to help speed up approvals and construction to build more homes in the face of a housing crisis.
The B.C. Parliament Buildings in Victoria. Seattle-based NetMotion Software revealed this month it just opened a new office in the capital city | Shutterstock

The province has unveiled a “one-stop-shop” approach to provincial permitting to help speed up approvals and construction to build more homes in the face of a housing crisis.

“Today we are taking action to remove obstacles to building the homes that we need,” Premier David Eby said Monday in an announcement at the University of B.C.

“We will be identifying those high impact housing projects and moving them through the system maintaining those high standards, but prioritizing them through the system to get them out the door so that we can start out building so we desperately need as our population growth was dramatically,” said Eby.

Homebuilding in B.C. can require multiple provincial permit applications involving different ministries and processes, including permits related to riparian area approvals, water licences, transportation approvals, road rezonings, contaminated sites, and requirements for heritage inspections, according to the province.

The average approval time is two years “and obviously are goal was to improve on that,” said Eby in a media availability following the announcement. “The goal is to reduce that dramatically” — from years to months.

The permitting strategy will be streamlined, potentially eliminating the need for multiple applications across ministries, says the province.

“This is more than just a single place to drop off your application,” Eby said. “Our goal is an expedited process where information doesn’t have to be re-submitted, reconsidered and redetermined by multiple decision-makers throughout the process.”

The government has introduced several housing-related changes since Eby became premier in November, including changes to the Housing Supply Act to set targets in the province’s fastest-growing municipalities as well as to the Strata Property Act to open up more rental options and more housing for families.

Eby said B.C. municipalities have in the past cited long wait times for provincial approvals and now the province is doing its part. 

“One thing that’s been obvious to me is each time I’ve raised this issue, the mayors rightly point to the problem and they say: ‘Look, you need to get your own house in order’ … So that’s what today’s announcement is all about,” he said. “We’re doing our part, we’re doing the work.” 

While the single application process is being established over the coming months, a cross-ministry team focused only on processing housing permits will be in place to expedite permits and approvals.

To start, 42 new full-time positions will prioritize housing that most urgently needs to be built, such as Indigenous-led projects, B.C. Housing applications and applications for buildings with multiple units.

Once those positions are filled, the plan is to to increase the team to 203 positions.

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