HOUSING SPEED TO MARKET - PLANNING STAFF LEVELS
Planning staff complements in most communities are smaller than they should be.
I am coming to suspect that this may be the case here in Barrie.
I arrive at this thought, having reviewed approval timelines with large, medium, and small sized development firms, individual homeowners completing do it yourself projects, renovators, and deck builders. And from meeting with planning and architectural firms that represent clients engaging on projects. Approval process challenges that were shared had many common elements.
One scenario that truly highlighted my staffing level concern was a foundation permit that took 61 days from date of application to approval in one city, took 194 days in Barrie. This was a true head-to-head measure as the building design and foundation layout were identical.
Given that our Barrie planning staff will be as proficient, efficient, and knowledgeable as their counterparts in other cities, suggests, at least to me, that a staffing level versus volume of work issue may be in play. A quick count of pending development proposals shows a total of 144 applications representing more than 14,000 housing units will be attempting to make their way through planning. Begs the question, can the planning department as it exists today, come close to handling this volume in an expedient manner.
The other thread to be pulled is do we have the correct planning staff levels on board at the correct time of year. We need approvals out the door at the right time of year. For instance, an application that arrives to the planning department in July that does not receive approval until November means the late summer thru fall building window is missed resulting in the project not starting until the following April, a full 10 months from the date the application was submitted to the city.
House prices dramatically increase on a quarterly basis which means that speed to market impacts affordability.
When we speak of solutions to affordable housing, we need to include the ability of the planning department to meet demand as part of these discussions. If elected as your mayor, I would encourage my fellow council members to do so.