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North Van and Tsleil-Waututh among first to go digital on housing permits

The City of North Vancouver and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation) are part of a project to speed up permit approvals in B.C.
Workers on a platform attach a piece of construction material to a new building at the Apex at Seylynn Village development in June, 2023. | Nick Laba / North Shore News

The City of North Vancouver and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation) will be among the first in B.C. to adopt a digital permitting system for builders of new homes.

Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon announced Tuesday 16 municipalities and First Nations that would help develop and pilot a new method of permitting intended to drastically cut down the amount of time it takes for new housing to be built.

“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,” Kahlon said in a release.

Most B.C. jurisdictions still rely on paper-based application for new housing, which the ministry says can cause costly delays and slow approval times. Starting in March 2024, the province and its 16 partners included in the pilot project will begin testing the new system, which is expected to speed up processing times and automatically review plans to ensure they are compliant with the B.C. Building code. 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, the release states.

As the development of the new system begins, the province has struck a new digital advisory council made up of development industry members to provide the province with advice on making B.C. a leader in digitizing permits.

City of North Vancouver Mayor Linda Buchanan welcomed the city’s inclusion in the project.

“In this critical time, it is imperative that we work together to tackle the housing crisis head on so we find housing solutions that support all members of the community – families, individuals, young people and seniors,” she said in a release.

North Vancouver-Lonsdale NDP MLA Bowinn Ma – who is almost nine months pregnant – noted that it takes less time to create a new human being than it does to get the permits for a home for them to live in.

“We’re in a housing crisis and the numbers aren’t adding up. More than 150,000 people chose to make B.C. their new home in 2022 alone, and despite enormous effort and improvements, housing starts aren’t keeping up. We need to find ways to move through the municipal decision-making processes more quickly,” she said. “This isn’t about letting bad projects go through, but about being more up front and streamlined on housing projects we need and want to succeed.”

The project has the support of the Urban Development Institute.

Other Metro Vancouver jurisdictions on the list include Burnaby, Surrey, Coquitlam, Vancouver, Langley and Maple Ridge. Vancouver Island municipalities joining the pilot are Saanich, Campbell River, Nanaimo, Victoria, Cowichan Valley and Qualicum Beach. In the Interior, Kamloops and Kelowna have signed on.

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