Focus Shifting to Core Issue in Affordable Housing Crisis

Despite the sense that the housing affordability crisis can’t get much worse, the Bank of Canada Housing Affordability Index (HAI) hit a 32 year high in Q3 2022. The HAI estimates an average household needs to spend 48.8% of its income to carry a home, up 11.1 points from the previous year. The situation is much the same south of the border where nearly half of Americans (49%) say the cost of housing is a major problem where they live, up 10 percentage points from early 2018. In the same survey, 70% of Americans say young adults today have a harder time buying a home than their parents’ generation did.

Numerous issues contribute to this crisis and there is increasing calls for federal governments to take a more active role to solve the gridlock that is plaguing so many affordable housing initiatives—both locally and regionally.

Suggested fixes on the national level, included the following:

  • Leverage the weight of federal coffers.
  • Address the surge of international students.
  • Let seniors sell their homes and live there too.
  • Protect existing affordable rental stock from “financialization.”
  • Restrict access to credit.


While it is encouraging to see solutions to the affordability crisis being considered on numerous fronts nationally, the key stumbling block remains prohibitive delays in the construction approvals process locally, with cities like Vancouver, British Columbia, one of the most overheated real estate markets in the world, taking up to two years to approve new housing projects.

To tackle the problem, the Province of British Columbia is embracing a new Permitting Strategy for Housing focused on creating a single, coordinated approach to housing-related permits and authorization. With the intent of eliminating multiple applications across ministries; permit and authorization decisions will be expedited through a cross-ministry team focused solely on processing housing permits. This initiative budgets for 42 dedicated new hires to identify and expedite applications related to high-priority housing projects, while the Province simultaneously pursues a “one-stop-shop” approach to permitting infrastructure to speed up approvals and new home construction. Following the announcement of the Permitting Strategy for Housing, stakeholders across BC were vocal in their support of the Province’s priorities to address these historic housing shortages.


“Provincial permitting and authorization is a significant factor in the time needed to approve housing development. This new initiative responds to requests from our members for the streamlining of provincial processes. The additional resources to improve cross-ministry co-ordination are welcomed and we look forward to the launch of a single-application process.”

Jen Ford, president, Union of BC Municipalities

“It’s well-known that permitting delays are adding risk and cost across the construction industry at every level, so any effort to speed things up is welcome. We appreciate that the provincial government has made housing construction a fast-track priority for natural resources permitting and look forward to the removal of barriers for other types of permits and a broader range of projects.”

Chris Atchison, president, BC Construction Association (BCCA)

“UDI has long advocated for speeding up both municipal and provincial review processes, so we are pleased with today’s announcement to create a new Permitting Solutions Strategy for Housing. Our hope is that this co-ordinated approach will streamline the approval of much-needed housing across B.C.”

Anne McMullin, president and CEO, Urban Development Institute (UDI)


From the Province of British Columbia to the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis (CANCEA), to the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON), to McKinsey & Company, recent analyses of the housing affordability crisis is aligning on the urgent need for the modernization of outdated permitting systems as the number one priority for government stakeholders to best address the shortage of affordable housing stocks. In its 2023 Provincial Budget Submission, RESCON calls on the Province of Ontario to implement an electronic development approval and building permit platform. CANCEA urges similar process innovation with the Centre’s economic analysis indicating that a six-month reduction in construction approval delays could result in 33,100 housing units in Ontario, equivalent to nearly a 10 per cent increase in the housing market above current levels of investment.


Modernization of Permitting Systems Proving the Path Forward

This modernization of permitting and planning systems is already proving itself in locales like Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Mecklenburg County, Ottawa, Calgary, and Edmonton, with the implementation of POSSE, a “one-stop-shop” solution equivalent to that envisioned by the Province of British Columbia’s Permitting Strategy for Housing.

Publicly reported permitting gains from these jurisdictions include:

  • A 500% increase in permit activity leading to a 40% increase in revenues for the City of Pittsburgh.
  • $12 million in recovered revenues for the City of Philadelphia from their ‘Powered by POSSE’ eCLIPSE system.
  • An 80%+ increase in inspection pass rates and a 73% increase in architectural and engineering pass rates, contributing to annual savings of $9M (est.) for the County of Mecklenburg.
  • A national benchmarking study by the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) ranked the City of Edmonton as the best city in Canada for housing affordability, citing the City’s streamlining of permitting, planning and license approval processes as a key factor in this evaluation. The ranking builds on Edmonton’s growing reputation for process automation with the city winning a Red Tape Reduction Award in 2022 from the Government of Alberta.


In demonstrating a direct correlation between the modernization of permitting & planning systems and the resultant gains in affordable housing inventory and permitting revenues, the City of Edmonton has proven a path forward for cities like Toronto, Vancouver, Washington, Seattle, and Boston where housing prices are spiraling ever higher.

For those jurisdictions bold enough to take the critical first step to solve one of the most pressing issues of our time, we invite you to schedule a Discovery Demo to see how our proven POSSE PLS solution can help to solve your housing affordability issues quickly, efficiently, and cost effectively.