CFIB challenges municipalities to streamline permitting to speed up housing starts

Ontario Construction News staff writer

Municipal governments can help address the shortage of housing in Canada by simplifying permitting processes, says the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) in its new report entitled Flushing out the nonsense. The report was released during CFIB’s 15th annual Red Tape Awareness Week.

“Canada’s housing shortage has come to the point where buying a home in Canada is getting out of reach for most Canadians. This also makes it more challenging for small employers who struggle to attract employees in many cities across the country, as those employees cannot find affordable housing. Municipalities across Canada can do more to help address it,” said Duncan Robertson, senior policy analyst at CFIB and co-author of the report. “Making municipal permitting processes simpler and less costly is one important step in addressing Canada’s housing challenges.”

cfib reportThe report analyzed what type of permits and costs are required for a $20,000 project to convert a simple powder room into a full bathroom in 12 major cities across Canada.

To cut unnecessary red tape, CFIB recommends municipalities:

  • Review their existing permitting and approval processes.
  • Establish publicly available service standards for permit processing.
  • Simplify and even automate certain processes.

Provincial and federal governments should:

  • Tie future funding for housing and infrastructure to requirements for a low administrative burden.
  • Ensure reporting requirements are set provincially where permit processing service standards are provincial too.

Vancouver had the highest permitting costs of the 12 municipalities examined and, along with Toronto, had the highest document requirements. On average, seven additional documents are needed for a bathroom renovation project, with combined permitting costs ranging from $180 in Charlottetown to $2,029 in Vancouver.

“If there are this many obstacles for a simple bathroom renovation, imagine how costly and time-consuming it is to permit a secondary suite, a complete renovation or a new build. Permitting costs and processes should be straightforward and affordable,” said Francesca Basta, CFIB’s research analyst and co-author of the report.

More than 50 per cent of small business owners in the construction sector find it difficult to obtain or renew permits and/or licenses. A strong majority of businesses (80%) also agree that governments of all levels should make it a high priority to review the necessity of all business permits and licenses.

This year, CFIB is challenging every government in Canada (federal, provincial and municipal) to undertake two red tape reduction initiatives to help address the shortage of housing. For example, governments could look at addressing service standards, approval timelines or the burden of permit applications. The impact of these initiatives should be measured and reported in terms of time and/or money saved.

“Addressing Canada’s housing challenge is a big job, but there’s one simple, low-cost solution all levels of governments could capitalize on, and that’s reducing red tape,” Robertson said.


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