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B.C. invests in digital permitting to get homes built faster

April 12, 2023 at 2:00 pm  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

People will be able to move into new homes faster as the Province invests in digital permitting and the construction industry to make the process quicker and more collaborative.

“Technology helps us do just about everything these days, but the housing sector remains reliant on the paper system,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Housing. “To help speed up the homebuilding process, we’re investing in technology that will make us a North American leader in digital permitting and construction. Faster approvals and builds will unlock more homes for British Columbians sooner, easing some of the pressure on our strained housing market.”

The Ministry of Housing, with support from the Ministry of Citizens’ Services, is working on digitizing the BC Building Code and the building permitting process with pilots in select local governments in 2024.  

“We don’t have time to waste when it comes to getting new housing on the market, so we need to look for efficiencies throughout the sector,” said Lisa Beare, Minister of Citizens’ Services. “That’s why we’re investing in new tools and technologies that will make it easier for homebuilders to focus on what they do best – build homes – and not worry about red tape. Most importantly, these innovations will get people into homes faster.”

The BC Building Code is currently only available in print or PDF format. The digitally enhanced code will include features that will make it faster and easier for builders and building inspectors to understand and interpret the information. It will also allow for more automation during building permit reviews.

The building permitting process currently varies widely across local governments: some use digital tools and some rely on paper. The provincial government’s work to digitize the process will include working with local governments.

The Province is also investing in innovation in the housing construction sector. Government is investing in Digitalpreviously known as the Digital Technology Supercluster, which is part of the federal Global Innovation Cluster network, with a $9-million, three-year grant to accelerate the development and adoption of innovative technologies in the construction sector. This work will involve collaborating with several partners in industry, academia and at all levels of government to create digital solutions for the construction sector and designing pilot projects to test those solutions. Digital is a B.C-based independent, not-for-profit organization that focuses on the development, adoption and deployment of Canadian-made digital technologies through a unique collaborative model that brings together Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), multinationals and academia.

“One of the core principles of the Stronger BC Economic Plan is embracing innovation to propel us forward,” said Brenda Bailey, Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation. “Utilizing the Digital Technology Cluster to develop a digital permitting pilot marries progressive thinking with much-needed efficiency in expediting decisions for the housing sector.”

The Province did preliminary consultation with local governments, builders, developers, architects and engineers on this work and will continue to engage with partners throughout the process.

This project builds on the government’s work to establish a single application portal for provincial housing permits and authorizations, which will go live in 2023. It also builds on the Province’s development approvals process review, which launched in 2018 and helps local governments improve their processes. As part of this work, government created the Local Government Development Approvals Program, which is providing $15 million to help local governments create more efficient approvals processes.  

Advancing digital permitting and construction is part of the Province’s new housing plan, Homes for People, which was announced on April 3, 2023. The plan will speed up delivery of new homes, increase the supply of middle-income housing, fight speculation and help those who need it the most.

Quotes:

Ken Sim, mayor of Vancouver –

“Utilizing technology is vital to cutting wait times and making government more effective. We are pleased to see these further efforts being made across the province. Vancouver recently moved over to a fully digital permit system, where builders can apply, pay and receive their permit electronically through our ePlan system. Vancouver is proud to be a leading government in embracing technology, and we are excited to see other jurisdictions doing so as well.

Sue Paish, CEO, Digital –

“Digital is proud to have the confidence of the Province of B.C. to deliver one of its key priorities in improving the productivity of the housing and construction sector and unlocking more housing for British Columbians. The Province’s investments in digitizing the housing sector will make B.C. a North American leader in digital construction and permitting through the digitization of the building code and advancing the adoption of technologies that help the sector work more effectively with regulators. We look forward to continuing our track record of results and making a difference in the lives of British Columbians.”

Neil Moody, CEO, Canadian Home Builders’ Association British Columbia –

“The housing crisis in B.C. calls for modern, innovative solutions. There is tremendous opportunity in using technology to automate code compliance and process permits so homes can be constructed faster, and this is a step we can take quickly.”

Learn More:

To read the Homes for People action plan, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/Homes_For_People.pdf

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