Housing summit explores approval process issues facing developers

House under construction

Windsor's mayor would like to see some changes to the approval process to help developers in an effort to address the affordable housing crisis.

Drew Dilkens took part in a virtual summit Wednesday with Ontario Premier Doug Ford and other municipal leaders from across the province to discuss ways to address the housing crisis and come up with concrete ways to allow more families to buy a home.

Dilkens says he raised the issue of how the approval process is carried out.

"These processes are often very linear. You complete this and you can start the next phase, when in fact, we need to look at this while we're working on this one phase, is there work that can happen on the next phase so that we're not adding undue delay to actually realizing the construction on a thousand homes?," questioned Dilkens.

After the summit, Ford announced Ontario's largest communities will get new funding to help speed up development approvals and get homes built faster.

The new 45-million-dollar Streamline Development Approval Fund will help the 39 largest municipalities approve housing applications more quickly.

Dilkens says this is about trying to find ways to increase the availability of developable land and then making sure to reduce all of the layers of regulatory burdens and delays to get shovels in the ground.

He notes that the City of Windsor was the first municipality in Canada to move to an all-digital building permit process a few years ago and hopes to use some of the provincial funding to review the planning and building process to make sure they're operating as efficiently as possible.

"The moment a developer comes forward with a  proposal, that it's tracked in the system and we're removing all the red tape and regulatory burden, from our perspective, that is there. From a provincial perspective, making sure at the Ministry of Environment and other ministries, that they're working just as diligently on their end," says Dilkens.

Dilkens says getting the developers to build affordable housing is a challenge when you have high real estate costs, high land costs and high construction and inflations costs.

"All levels of government are engaged here to be able to find solutions and we all have different levels we can pull. From a city perspective we are pulling ever lever at our disposal to be able to make sure that we're helping developers get those projects through the system and out the door as fast as possible," he adds.

In January, the Windsor-Essex County Association of Realtors reported the average sales price for a home in  December 2021 was $575,069, compared to an average sale price of $457,381 in December 2020, a year-over-year increase of $117,688.

As an additional measure to help build more homes faster, the province also committed to work with the municipal sector to develop a data standard for planning and development applications to help accelerate approval timelines. 

The province says data standardization will help improve the quality of data, create consistency across systems, make it easier to measure results, reduce costs for business and governments, and support municipalities' transition to digital service delivery and digital approvals.