The affordable housing crisis has become an indisputable reality for Canadians across the nation. It’s even become a key issue for this upcoming federal election, prompting party leaders to articulate their stance. Now, the provincial government plans to modernize its Building Code services to help speed up the construction of new development projects.
The news comes on the heels of a May 2 announcement by the Ontario government. This comprehensive housing initiative is titled “More Homes, More Choice: Ontario’s Housing Supply Action Plan.” The report details planning initiatives and legislative amendments that have been modified to streamline development. The province hopes that the more obstacles are removed from bringing properties to market, the more quickly residents can find decent housing at an affordable rate.
The prospect of meeting the standards of a “Building Code” can often be overwhelmingly complicated. In turn, the government’s new mandate aims to create better services, up-to-date tools, and new resources to help people better understand and meet building code requirements, while maintaining standards for public safety.
A newly-devised and assigned administrative authority would be set up to deliver enhanced services such as:
- developing digital tools to support municipal e-permitting and make the building code easier to use and understand;
- providing supports to help municipal governments increase the number of building inspectors in Ontario; currently, staff are working overtime to handle the growing number of building inspections
- introducing continuing professional development to make sure registered building code professionals remain up-to-date on code requirements; and
- providing supports to small, rural, and northern municipalities to help them deliver local building services.
In addition, there will be new enforcement tools to address non-compliance with the building code.
“A new administrative authority for building services in Ontario could address a range of municipal challenges. E-permitting, for example, would help streamline development. It could also help with capacity issues, training and retention of building officials, and improved enforcement of building codes,” said AMO president, Jamie McGarvey, Mayor, Town of Parry Sound. “AMO looks forward to working with the Province to ensure the initiative meets these goals. To create safe and thriving communities, we need to make sure we get this right.”
The Ontario government has also created an innovation guide to help people who want to add a second unit, like a basement apartment, to their home.
“This guide is a useful tool to home owners who are looking to create new rental units as well as the municipalities who approve the suites,” said Matt Farrell, President, Ontario Building Officials Association (OBOA). “It translates complex building code language into user-friendly information that will help all applicants as they move through the process of developing secondary suites. It needs to be at the front counter of every municipal office so building officials can advise residents accordingly.”
Second units can help address the shortage of low-cost rental housing. The guide is the first in a series being developed to encourage a wider range of options in housing.
With over 131,000 building permits issued in Ontario last year, the province is hoping that more renovations could expand the quantity of rental suites available.
A less complicated Building Code makes the process that much easier.