B.C. Premier David Eby says a new website, now online after being announced in January, will reduce the wait time for provincial permits by about 60 days for home builders.
Eby, along with Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon, announced the Single Housing Application Service (SHAS) Monday at a news conference in Richmond along with Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship Nathan Cullen and local MLA Aman Singh.
The province oversees permits for water licences, contaminated site clean-ups and road rezoning, among other things, while municipalities issue most other construction-related permits.
Monday's announcement, made at a Richmond business that supplies plywood to the construction industry, came nine months after Eby first released details of the initiative.
The website aims to reduce the current wait for housing-related permits, which can be up to eight months, by 60 days.
The Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship told CBC News in an email that the eight-month wait was already a significant reduction from before 2018, when a housing task force panel reported on barriers to housing affordability.
Before then, the approximate turnaround time for housing-related permits such as riparian areas, contaminated sites and archaeology was 12-18 months, while transportation, land and water permits were taking on average about 24 months.
On Monday, Eby said the new website is the result of listening to builders who found acquiring permits from the province confusing and slow.
The new service will make it simpler to obtain provincial permits and "will help clear permitting backlogs, while maintaining environmental standards," said a government release.
'Not the full answer'
SHAS works by connecting home builders to what the province calls "navigators," who will act as the single, dedicated point of contact for all information. In January Eby said 42 full-time staff were being hired to conduct this work.
Eby acknowledged that the change is a small step toward delivering more homes in the province, where inadequate and unaffordable housing is a problem many residents are facing.
"It's not the full answer, it's not the silver bullet," Eby said about reducing permit wait times.
"We have to go at this problem from so many angles and that's what we are doing."
Workers build a build a duplex in a residential neighbourhood in Kamloops, B.C., in this file photograph from 2015. (Habitat for Humanity)
Last week, new data showed that in British Columbia, the average rent is now $2,675, up 10.8 per cent in the past year. Vancouver alone saw the average asking price for a rental apartment hit $3,316 a month — an increase of 7.3 per cent.
Industry representatives at Monday's news conference welcomed the SHAS website and said it would help expedite builds.
Kush Panatch, president of Panatch Group, said one of the company's projects in Port Moody — which will house 220 families — was expedited by having early access to the new portal and its navigators.
Secondary suite incentive also coming
Eby and Kahlon also outlined plans for a program to be launched in the spring that will provide forgivable loans to homeowners to create new secondary suites or accessory dwelling units, such as laneway homes, on their properties.
The secondary suite incentive program (SSIP) will provide approximately 3,000 homeowners with forgivable loans of up to $40,000 to create the housing.
Loans will only go to properties that will be rented below market rates for at least five years. A new guide, called Home Suite Home, is available to help homeowners figure out whether they are eligible to apply.
The announcement of the SSIP comes as B.C. is preparing legislation this fall that will make secondary suites legal throughout the province.
Last week, the City of Vancouver approved new rules that will make it easier for homeowners to develop multi-unit housing on single-house lots.