Michael de Lint / RESCON
I want to give you a brief update on the status of our report on regulatory good practices. We have scheduled the final working group meetings for the end of May and expect to publish the report in mid-June.
We have received great input and comments from our focus group, steering group members and others as steering group chair Bryan Tuckey kept us on track. Let me summarize the focus and recommendations of the report – what it does and does not do.
STUDY FOCUS: THE EFFICIENCY DEFICIT
As we know, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) has a serious housing affordability problem largely caused by a chronic new supply deficit. This supply deficit is the result of many factors including: a transit deficit (years of not building enough transit that supports intensification); a zoning deficit (under-zoning relative to approved official plans); and a process efficiency deficit. This study is mainly focused on the efficiency deficit which is to say that the development and building approval process is slower and much less efficient than it should be. The report also touches briefly on the problem of out-of-date zoning and addresses the need for a more innovation-friendly building approval process.
BACK TO BASICS
A slow and inefficient development approval process is a major factor contributing to this housing supply deficit. In a nutshell, this inefficiency causes increased costs, more uncertainty, less supply, less innovation, less affordability and a less attractive place for job-creating investment in the GTA.
“Ontario needs a modernized development approvals process and more innovation, while maintaining high planning and building safety standards,” Tuckey says. While site plan approvals under the Planning Act should be one month, the reality is different. This relatively routine process often takes over two years for residential projects. Toronto’s development approval process efficiency (representing Canada’s) is ranked at 54th of 190 countries by a World Bank report, mainly because of slow site plan approvals for such things as a simple warehouse building.
Increased efficiency will require significant changes in how we do things, but we don’t need to completely change the system. Our approach is to go back to basics by strengthening and modernizing the system’s building blocks.
WHAT THE REGULATORY SYSTEM NEEDS: A MAJOR TUNEUP AND LUBRICATION
The regulatory system extends beyond the regulatory agencies – industry is a key part of the system since it is a key player in compliance. Total transparency in agency requirements and procedures allows industry professionals to submit complete, compliant applications as “partners in compliance.” When industry applications are more complete, regulatory agencies can shift to more of a process management and expert audit role, thereby reducing red tape. And secondly, efficient, client-centric regulatory agencies need to be linked together with the latest, state-of-the-art, e-permitting technology for faster, seamless digital interagency communication and better service to industry. This e-permitting system can help lubricate the overall system. Canada is the only G7 country without a digital mandate.
THE NUTS AND BOLTS OF THE TUNEUP
Accordingly, the report includes suggested actions in three thematic areas: recommendations that will help regulatory agencies to be more transparent and client-centric; recommendations to help municipalities and other regulatory bodies link together in a cutting-edge permitting network; and finally, recommendations that will help improve the completeness of professional submissions so that regulatory agencies can transition to more of an expert technical audit role thereby reducing red tape.
“These recommendations, aimed at improving the system mechanics, will take time to implement,” RESCON president Richard Lyall says, “But they are very important steps in a longer journey of continuous improvement that in a few years should put Ontario well along the path to a top-10 spot in regulatory system efficiency.”
We thank Bryan Tuckey, the steering group and all others who contributed to this report. We’re looking forward to getting your feedback when the report is launched in mid-June.
Thanks for reading!
Michael de Lint is RESCON’s director of building regulatory reform and technical standards. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.