CFIB says cutting red tape would ease housing crunch

Ontario Construction News staff writer

Municipal governments across Canada can help address the shortage of affordable housing by reducing red tape around residential construction, says the Canadian Federation of Independent Business in a new report.

Called Flushing out the nonsense, the 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 the country.

It found that Vancouver had the highest permitting costs, and along with Toronto, had the highest document requirements. They are also the cities with the highest home prices and greatest housing shortages, the report notes. 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.

(A 2022 study for the Building Industry and Land Development Association said municipal red tape and delays add $100,000 to cost of a new home in the Toronto area.)

“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,” 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.”

“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,” added Francesca Basta, CFIB’s research analyst and co-author of the report.

More than half of small business owners in the construction sector find it difficult to obtain or renew permits and/or licenses, said the report based on surveys among the CFIB’s 97,000 members. Released as part of the CFIB’s Red Tape Awareness Week, the report found 80 per cent of businesses agreed that governments of all levels should make it a high priority to review the necessity of all business permits and licenses.

To cut unnecessary red tape, CFIB recommends municipalities:

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

It also says provincial and federal governments should tie funding for housing and infrastructure to requirements for a low administrative burden.

Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe said last week that speeding permitting was one of the aims in Ottawa’s application for a share of the Housing Accelerator fund after announcing that a funding deal with the federal government had been reached.

Permits required and the cost for a bathroom conversion in 12 cities surveyed by the CFIB:

  • Vancouver 11 permits, $2,099
  • Edmonton 5 permits, $673
  • St. John’s 6 permits, $579
  • Calgary 5 permits, $439
  • Winnipeg 7 permits, $380
  • Montreal 7 permits, $353
  • Saskatoon 6 permits, $327
  • Ottawa 6 permits, $317
  • Toronto 10 permits, $296
  • Halifax 6 permits, $272
  • Moncton 7 permits, $230
  • Charlottetown 5 permits, $18



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