New digital building permit tool will help create more homes faster in B.C.
October 10, 2023 By Government of B.C.
More new homes for people will be approved faster as the province works with partners to develop a new digital building permit tool.
“People will soon see new homes approved faster as we make good on our commitment to position B.C. as a North American leader in digital permitting and construction,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Housing. “We are excited to start work together with our partners to design and then implement this new digital building permit tool, so we can speed up the delivery of new homes and create the types of housing options people need in B.C.”
Currently, many jurisdictions in B.C. rely on a paper-based application process for new housing developments that leads to delays and slow approval times. Once completed, the new digital building permit tool will make it faster and simpler for builders and developers to digitally submit building permits for new housing and for local governments to receive and process the application. The tool will also automatically review the submission to ensure it is compliant with key parts of the B.C. building code to prevent any delays with the submission process.
Establishing a provincial building permit submission tool is the first step toward a modern housing development process that embraces innovation and digital collaboration technologies like building information modelling (BIM). The Ministry of Housing is also working with the National Research Council of Canada to make construction codes machine readable, which will allow for more automated and faster permit reviews in the future.
“A fast, efficient permitting process is key to ensuring infrastructure projects are able to move forward in a timely manner,” said Lisa Beare, Minister of Citizens’ Services. “Citizens’ Services staff are lending their expertise to help develop the new digital permitting tool which will help make this happen.”
The tool is being developed through a pilot partnership between the province, 16 local governments and one First Nations government that will implement the new digital building permit tool. The tool is expected to begin testing in partnership communities by March 2024, following which it will be expanded into other communities.
“In this critical time, it is imperative that we work together to tackle the housing crisis head on so we find housing solutions that support all members of the community – families, individuals, young people and seniors,” said Linda Buchanan, mayor, North Vancouver. “Involving local and First Nations governments in the development of the new digital building permit process tool is vital to ensuring people with diverse needs are able to find appropriate and affordable housing faster. That goal perfectly aligns with our city’s housing action plan, too.”
In addition, the province has also created a new digital advisory council to provide strategic advice, ensuring the province is achieving the broader vision of becoming a North American leader in digital permitting and construction. The council will include representatives from 12 leading organizations across the housing development system, such as construction organizations, engineers, architects, local governments and the tech sector. The council will begin regular meetings this fall.
“Digitizing the B.C. building code and building permit processing will help builders more efficiently obtain approvals to deliver the homes and job spaces British Columbians need,” Anne McMullin, president and CEO, Urban Development Institute. “UDI is pleased to participate on the digital advisory council for this pilot partnership and is committed to working with the government on innovative solutions like this.”
These projects build on the government’s work to digitize the B.C. building code and establish a single-application portal for provincial housing permits and authorizations, which was launched in September 2023 by the Ministry of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship. Ministries are working closely to integrate different types of permits across the housing development process, with a common goal of making permitting processes for housing more transparent and easier for homebuilders and developers to understand how to comply with permit and regulatory requirements.
It also builds on the province’s development approvals process review, which began in 2018 and helps local governments improve their processes.
“This is an important initiative that is designed to help get more housing built faster and to mitigate costs related to delays,” said Tom Dyas, mayor, Kelowna. “The city of Kelowna has been working on a similar system over the past year and is eager to share our learnings as well as learn what else can be done by working collaboratively across governments.”
Advancing digital permitting and construction is part of the province’s new housing plan: Homes for People. The plan will speed up delivery of new homes, increase the supply of middle-income housing, fight speculation and help those who need it the most.
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