B.C. developing digital permitting tool to speed up approvals
It currently takes 13-14 months on average to approve rezoning and development permits in the province.
Ravi Kahlon, minister of housing, says the tool will position the province as a leader in North America. – Province of B.C.
- B.C. is working on developing a new digital building permit tool to position it as a North American leader in digital permitting and construction.
- The tool is intended to simplify the submission of building permits, speeding up the approval process and ensuring compliance with the BC Building Code.
- The tool is expected to begin testing in partnership communities by March 2024, with plans to expand its use to other communities.
The Whole Story:
B.C. is working on a new digital permitting tool to speed up the development of homes.
“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. The latest municipal benchmarking study commissioned by the Canadian Home Builders’ Association of BC found that it takes on average 13-14 months to approve rezoning and development permits and over 20 months for a subdivision application.
Once completed, the new digital building permit tool is expected to 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 BC Building Code to prevent any delays with the submission process.
Officials stated that 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 addition, the province has also created a new digital advisory council to provide strategic advice. 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 BC 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 follow efforts to digitize the BC Building Code and establish a single-application portal for provincial housing permits and authorizations, which was launched in September 2023. Ministries are working 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.
“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.”
Kelowna has partnered with Microsoft to develop AI tools to help developers get through the permitting process faster.