Under the Emergency Program Act, the BC govt has enabled municipalities to hold public hearings electronically.

Their news release says, “Local governments are required to hold public hearings for some development applications before making a decision. A significant delay in processing development applications could result in cost increases or cancelled projects and could negatively impact the province’s economic recovery.”

The province wisely allowed construction to continue with strict guidelines, especially considering BC’s success battling COVID-19.

So far, Greater Victoria has weathered the storm reasonably well, posting a small decline of -8% in new housing year-to-date vs 2019.

However, most of those new homes were already approved prior to the pandemic.

Many new development approvals have since stalled due to the absence of public hearings. If this continues, housing starts will also stall or be cancelled, followed by inevitable lay-offs.

To assist the recovery, new developments and building permits must be reviewed and processed efficiently. This will prevent significant job losses in our community moving forward.

Under the Local Govt Act, municipalities already have the authority to waive public hearings for rezoning applications if the zoning is consistent with the Official Community Plan.

Now the province has provided additional tools by granting municipalities the authority to hold electronic public hearings when required.

By moving quickly to hold these hearings, municipalities can secure jobs in our community ranging from skilled trades on the job sites to downstream suppliers.

Perhaps this will also offer lessons for creating additional efficiencies in the future, after the pandemic has been contained.

This column appears Wednesdays in the Times Colonist.

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