Provincial officials have been working with cities to streamline development approvals to tackle the housing crisis. Algra Bros. construction at Five Corners pictured from February, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress file)

Provincial officials have been working with cities to streamline development approvals to tackle the housing crisis. Algra Bros. construction at Five Corners pictured from February, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress file)

Chilliwack to consider provincial ideas to speed up development approvals

Forgoing need for public hearings is one idea to expedite affordable housing

Provincial officials are striving to streamline development approvals as a strategy to tackle the housing crisis.

“We are working with local governments, the development sector, and housing advocates to streamline local development processes to help get more homes built faster for people,” said Josie Osborne, minister of municipal affairs in a release Oct. 26.

“This is one important step in the work all orders of government must do to meet housing needs for people in our communities.”

In terms of local reaction to the streamlining ideas, City of Chilliwack staff will be reviewing the proposed legislative changes to see if they will “effectively improve timelines for approvals, while still providing adequate opportunity for residents most impacted by proposals to share their concerns,” according to a statement.

One of the bureaucracy-tweaking ideas is forgoing the requirement for public hearings to speed up affordable housing development proposals.

Chilliwack’s approval times are already “generally much shorter” than other Lower Mainland communities,” according to Jamie Leggatt, director of communications for City of Chilliwack.

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Following recommendations of its Homelessness Action Plan, city officials established “an expedited process for affordable non-market housing developments” that’s been in place for years.

As well the city has streamlined planning processes for applications that comply with council-approved guidelines for coach houses, minor form and character development permits, farm home-plate development permits, and concurrent reviews of rezoning and development permit applications.

The proposed amendments under review to the Local Government Act to:

• remove the default requirement for local governments to hold public hearings for zoning bylaw amendments that are consistent with the official community plan; and

• enable local governments to delegate decisions on minor development variance permits to staff.

The proposed changes were identified during consultation with local governments, housing providers and builders, and other stakeholders as part of the province’s development approvals process review. The change also build on the work of the Local Government Development Approvals Program that is providing $15 million to help local governments create more efficient approvals processes.

“B.C. local governments have been seeking improvements to streamline development approval processes,” said Laurey-Anne Roodenburg, president of the Union of BC Municipalities. “These amendments to the current legislation provide new options that align with recommendations in UBCM’s housing strategy, maintain local government flexibility, and will be welcomed by many UBCM members. We will continue to work with the government to seek further improvements to the development approval process.”

Jill Atkey, CEO of BC Non-profit Housing Association sees the changes as heading in the right direction.

“Both of the amendments announced today are positive steps in ensuring that affordable homes can be delivered more quickly. BCNPHA encourages all municipalities to use their new delegation powers and to consider seriously whether public hearings are necessary for affordable housing projects that are consistent with community plans. These actions alone have the potential to save as much as one year in the development process.”

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Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
jfeinberg@theprogress.com


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