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RESCON-Backed Research Project Aims To Streamline The Housing Approvals Process

Streamlining the development approvals process is vital to boosting the supply of much-needed new homes and condos. We’re in dire need of housing, and it simply takes too long to get shovels in the ground.

In Toronto, for example, the timeline for getting developments through the approvals process has lengthened considerably over the years to 32 months in 2022, according to figures compiled by Altus Group, up from 21 months the year before. Toronto ranked last among 20 Canadian cities.

Previous reports have indicated that lengthy processing times for development applications have added up to $50,000 to the price of condo apartments since 2020.

So, we must do better. The system needs an overhaul, and we are hoping that the Toronto Housing Action Plan and new development and growth division in the city will lead the way. We must make sure approvals are not held up unnecessarily.

Presently, the government has set a target of building 1.5 million homes by 2031, although it is now anticipated that the actual number needs to be much higher. CMHC indicates that 1.85 million homes must be built in Ontario, and 3.5 million across Canada, to achieve affordability targets.

Sadly, provincial government projections show that Ontario housing starts over the next few years are expected to decline due to a perfect storm of challenges, including elevated interest rates. But when the economic situation does pick up, developers must be able to get projects off the ground quickly. We can use the time productively to fix the troubled system we are presently working under.

There is an initiative underway to help do just that. RESCON is backing a buildingSMART Canada (bSC) research project whose ultimate goal is to streamline the process and reduce the time it takes to get approvals.

The research project, officially called Streamlining Development Approvals: A Review of Processes, Requirements, Metrics, and Opportunities, will be led by David Amborski, a professor at the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Toronto Metropolitan University. He will be assisted by Rachael Nash, who is currently obtaining her Master of Planning degree in urban development.

Our current approvals process is fragmented, with cumbersome review procedures at the municipal level which acts as a bottleneck and hampers the ability of builders to deliver housing projects.

RESCON is committed to achieving greater transparency and consistency within the approvals process.

The system must be standardized across the province and allow information to be easily shared so projects can get approved quickly and efficiently, consequently lowering construction costs for consumers.

The research bSC research project will focus on achieving a better understanding of the processes and key metrics that exist within the development approval space and their impact on land use. Many authorities have jurisdiction over a given application and each has requirements to be fulfilled. The idea is to identify and measure the metrics so adjustments can be made to streamline the system.

Researchers will also examine how land use policy, development, real estate trends, and demographics are intrinsically linked. The data collected may enable the development of an AI-enabled real estate visual analytics platform that can lead to better decisions on land supply, use, and valuation.

The bSC is also involved in a $1.32-million research project with AECO Innovation Lab and leading researchers at five Canadian universities to investigate how BIM and digital twins can be leveraged by Canadian regulatory agencies to allow for better, more informed decision-making with respect to development approvals, asset and facility management, and municipal planning and operations.

RESCON-Backed Research Project Aims To Streamline The Housing Approvals Process

To build more homes faster, it is imperative to cut down on red tape and the time it takes to get a project through the development approvals process. With immigration rising, so will demand. Time is of the essence.

It is equally important to reduce development charges that are imposed on new homes and condos. The charges have been increased dramatically in Toronto, which will have a chilling effect on housing.

In 2022, government charges accounted for 22 to 27 per cent of the cost of a typical apartment building in Toronto, compared to 14 to 18 per cent in 2016, according to recent figures from Altus Group.
These increases must not be allowed to stand.

Richard Lyall is president of the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON). He has represented the building industry in Ontario since 1991. Contact him at media@rescon.com.

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