The Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON) is sponsoring a new research project digging into ways to streamline the development approval process, cutting down the time it takes to get shovels in the ground on housing projects.

The project comes from not-for-profit buildingSMART Canada. Led by Toronto Metropolitan University School of Urban and Regional Planning Professor David Amborski, the project will focus on "achieving a better understanding of the processes and key metrics that exist within the development approval space and their impact on land use." The overall goal, of course, is to identify and measure ways that authorities can make adjustments to streamline these processes.

“The current development approvals process is fragmented and outdated with cumbersome review procedures at the municipal level which acts as a bottleneck and hampers the ability of builders to deliver the housing we need,” said RESCON President Richard Lyall. “It is critical that we standardize and make the system more effective so information can be easily shared to get projects approved quickly and efficiently. This will help to lower construction costs for the consumer.”

Developers have long lamented the lengthy processing times for development applications in Ontario, citing both increased costs and an inability to provide housing quickly at a time when it's desperately needed. In September, the Building Industry and Land Development Association claimed that wait times in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), which range from 10 to 34 months depending on the municipality and take, on average, 20 to 24 months across the entirety of the GTA, have added up to $50,000 to the price of condo apartments since 2020.

And just last week, the provincial government projected in its 2023 budget that housing starts would fall across the province both this year and next -- an estimate that goes against their steadfast commitment to building 1.5M new homes in Ontario by 2031.

Amborski, assisted by Master of Planning in Urban Development student Rachael Nash, will examine how land use policy, development, real estate trends, and demographics play off each other, with the goal of collecting data to develop an "AI-enabled real estate visual analytics platform that can lead to better decisions on land supply, use and valuation."

“We are presently in the grips of a perfect storm that is dramatically affecting our housing supply,” Lyall said. “To reach the provincial target of building 1.5M homes in 10 years, it is paramount that we significantly transform the development approvals process. RESCON is eager to see the development approvals process transformed to enable the faster build of much-needed housing. This research project will give us valuable insight into how we can make that happen.”

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