In recent years, the Province of British Columbia and the City of Vancouver specifically have represented the ‘front lines’ of the affordable housing crisis. A 2023 analysis ranked British Columbia as the province with the highest cost of living in Canada with Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo and Surrey (BC cities all) landing within the top ten of the most expensive cities in Canada. In Vancouver, the costs of the housing crisis are especially dire with the picturesque paradise frequently cited as the most unaffordable city in North America. And yes, this includes the likes of New York, Toronto, Miami and Los Angeles, as formidable competition.
In recent years, government leaders in British Columbia have tried to turn this tide with legislation targeting speculative offshore investment and short-term vacation rentals. However, 2023 represented a true sea change in public policy with the Province introducing an aggressive array of policies designed to fast-track affordable housing supplies. Projected to create between 216,000 and 293,000 additional net-new housing units for British Columbians over the next 10 years, the key tactics announced are as follows:
While it is often buried in the fine print of various legislative housing initiatives across North America, the provision of resources to modernize permitting systems is in fact a key dependency for all cities and/or counties striving to solve the housing crisis in their specific jurisdiction. With funding allocations from senior levels of government often contingent upon a jurisdiction’s ability to meet and/or exceed aggressive deadlines for new housing starts, community development leaders often find themselves in a Catch 22 situation with political will and funding for new housing now readily available while archaic technology and permitting processes continue to hamper their ability to expedite planning and permitting approvals at the speed and scale demanded. To overcome these constraints, there is a growing trend to simply throw more bodies at the process by hiring short-term consultants to administer permitting processes. While effective as a short-term solution, such tactics fail to scale effectively compared to the more sustainable long-term solution of modernizing legacy systems for increased digital permitting efficiencies.
Fortunately for British Columbians, recent events seem to indicate that government leaders recognize the critical role that modernizing permitting processes will play in meeting the Province’s aggressive new housing targets. BC’s Permitting Strategy for Housing confirmed the objective to create a ‘One Stop’ approach to housing-related permits to speed up the process and eliminate the need for multiple applications across ministries. Currently, authorizations related to homebuilding in B.C. can require multiple provincial permit applications spanning different ministries with different processes. This includes permits related to riparian area approvals, water licences, transportation approvals, road rezonings, contaminated sites, and requirements for heritage inspections. In September of 2023, the Province launched the Single Housing Application Service bulwarked with an accompanying investment of 42 new full-time positions to assist applicants to better understand and progress within the Province’s often complex multi-stakeholder permitting process.
To reinvent their own local permitting processes, the City of Vancouver has taken a bold step forward working with Archistar, a recently announced partner of Computronix, to launch powerful new AI tools designed to quickly establish the compliance of submitted designs and drawings vs. civic building codes and permitting regulations. “Embracing technology for permitting will have a huge impact on Vancouver’s residents and businesses. Applicants will receive feedback on any items that are incomplete, missing or not permitted so they can resolve it before they submit their application,” said Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim.
Mayor Sim’s comments on the vital need to embrace modern permitting technology seems particularly prophetic when one considers the sheer amount of emergent information that present day permitting systems are expected to gather, vet, organize, communicate, and publish. Over and above the often-complex development plan and building permit applications themselves, the following represents just a small sample of the diverse and time sensitive information that must be processed quickly and efficiently to facilitate timely permitting approvals.
Given the vast breadth of the information being exchanged and the diverse stakeholders involved, it is here that mature permitting solutions like POSSE PLS prove invaluable in leveraging cutting-edge workflow automation to efficiently progress all stakeholders through a guided, coherent digital permitting process. In addition to facilitating streamlined permitting processes, proven systems like POSSE PLS are highly configurable enabling Community Development Agencies to optimize permitting workflows expediently as new codes, regulations, and enforcement standards emerge—both locally and from other echelons of government. Consider some real-world examples:
While these are just a handful of the many cities that have modernized their permitting process with Powered by POSSE solutions, it is clear that a good news story is starting to emerge on the affordable housing crisis front:
Yes, developments are finally starting to look promising on the housing crisis front, but with so many new initiatives dependent upon the timely rollout of aggressive legislation and the resultant regulations, building standards, and cross jurisdictional/stakeholder cooperation, it has never been more important to get the technology part of the equation right. Failure to put the critical permitting infrastructure needed in place carries the potential to undermine almost every policy now being implemented. The time to act is now.
Are you leading the charge for permitting modernization in your agency? Contact us today to arrange a free no-obligation demonstration of POSSE PLS. As exciting as it is to consider the potential of the new ideas being brought to bear to solve the affordable housing crisis at last, it’s equally exciting to see the new technology and tools that will bring these policies and regulations to life for colleagues and citizens alike.