The COVID-19 pandemic has Victoria reviewing ways to make the development permit process more efficient.

Considering that Public Hearings are no longer viable for public input, alternatives must be considered to keep projects moving forward.

A City of Victoria staff report to Council says now is a good opportunity to “review processes, in order to ensure the ongoing construction of housing and to enhance the ability of the development and trades industries to both weather and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, while complying with public health orders and meeting the transparency and accountability of land use processes.”

Some of these options include:
• Examining alternate means of gathering public input, and reducing frequency for minor variances and affordable housing;
• Delegating more authority to staff and expanding their scope;
• Waiving the requirement for Public Hearings for rezoning applications if the application is consistent with the Official Community Plan. This is permitted under the province’s Local Government Act.
The city would examine alternate means of garnering public input, which especially benefits affordable housing projects.

Like most businesses, the housing industry has been hit hard by the pandemic. Our biggest challenge prior to COVID-19 was the lack of housing supply and affordability, which has now been exacerbated.

The virus has choked supply, and any efficiencies that can be created will go a long way to assisting much-needed housing.

This is a challenge that can be addressed in every municipality. After the virus has subsided, we will need good-paying jobs to restore our local economy.

The construction industry can strongly contribute if development application and permit processes have been streamlined and projects are ready to go.

Let’s get started!

This column appears Wednesdays in the Times Colonist newspaper.

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