A new concierge-style portal promising to speed up provincial permitting will prioritize social housing, housing with multiple units and Indigenous housing while a new guide will help home-owners create secondary suites in preparing for a new pilot project rolling out next spring.
Premier David Eby announced the Single Housing Application Service and the Home Suite Home Monday morning in Richmond. Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon and Water, Land and Resource Stewardship Minister Nathan Cullen joined Eby in the event, timed to coincided with Monday’s start of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities conference.
While Eby acknowledged that the announced measures do not add up to a “silver bullet,” he defended them against suggestions that they do not correspond to the size of the problem.
“We are going at this problem from all different directions, because that is that’s what it requires,” he said. “It (housing) is a wicked problem with lots of different angles that we need to attack. Today’s announcement (of the SHAS) is about one of those key angles, which is about our provincial government processes. This is a big deal if you are a home-builder. The ability to reduce the amount of time you are interacting with the provincial government from two years to a period of months is a huge saving that allows you to turn over a significant amount more housing, get more housing built.”
Cullen said the SHAS will help home builders navigating the permit process find partners in the provincial government. The provincial government said in a statement that it expects SHAS to cut two off months of permit timelines.
“Some of our key successes include reducing the number of applications waiting for a decision by a third,” Cullen said. “Two-thirds of all housing permit applications received by March 31 of this year are now proceeding 49 days faster than they were before,” he said.
Eby added that the HSH guide will also help existing homeowners prepare for the Secondary Suite Incentive Program set to come into effect in spring 2024 The pilot project hopes to encourage the annual creation of up to 3,000 secondary suites for rentals with forgivable loans up to $40,000, subject to various conditions.
Perhaps key among them is the condition that would-be-landlords rent out their newly credited units to non-immediate family members at below-market rates for at least five years.
“This (pilot project) will give homeowners a boost and provide potential source of income to help encourage more suites to come online, while also helping renters by creating a supply of affordable housing,” Kahlon said.
According to a government statement citing BC Assessment Data, B.C. is home to 228,700 units that could be rented out as secondary suites and a number of municipalities have gone through great measures to legalize them. Others, however, have been more hesitant.
Carmina Tupe, director of policy and government relations with Canadian Home Builders’ Association British Columbia, signalled industry’s support for the announcement measures. Tupe is optimistic the new portal will streamline the permitting process while welcoming the prospect of more housing including secondary suites.
“Hopefully, today’s announcements are some of the many more helpful tools that will be announced and that will enable us to reach our ambitious housing goals faster and more efficiently,” Tupe said.
BC United’s Karin Fitzpatrick, shadow minister for housing, childcare, autism and accessibility, gender equity and inclusion, acknowledged that today’s announcement of the new portal and guide are necessary steps, but questioned the optics and substance.
“I listened to the announcement and I was actually still waiting for the announcement,” she said. “I couldn’t figure out what actually warranted having a press conference on these two things.”
The announcements describe the logistics of already announced programs, she said. “There isn’t anything new or shocking there,” she said.
The portal might actually create more costly bureaucracy, while the guide is essentially a brochure, she added.