RESCON: Overhaul of development process will yield huge gains

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Not enough housing is being produced to meet demand and anything  that can be done to speed up the process is welcome

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The City of Toronto is on a crucial crusade to dramatically overhaul how it handles and reviews development applications, something I feel will benefit our community of builders and new home buyers.

The initiative, known as Concept 2 Keys, or C2K, is radically transforming how planning and development applications are reviewed by modernizing organizational structures, processes, and technology.

RESCON is fully supportive of this bold initiative. A more efficient review system will have positive impacts in delivering housing at a faster pace while reducing costs to builders and, in turn, homebuyers.

The city began the C2K initiative in 2020 with an aim to accelerate the development review process and improve the experience of applicants and city staff. The city wants to remove obstacles that are slowing down the process and make the system more efficient with shorter turnaround times.

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It’s a big undertaking and involves rethinking and radically transforming the development review process from the time a developer submits an application, to occupancy by a homeowner. As a result, C2K is being done in phases. This will permit the system to be tested and refined each step of the way.

Phase one involved prioritizing and expediting 21 affordable housing development projects, with more than 2,200 new units at or below market rent, and setting up a new application management function to oversee development applications.

Phase two was launched in June and is focused on application types beyond affordable housing in the Etobicoke-York geographic planning area. The intent of the second phase is to test the scalability of process and technology improvements in a typical development review environment.

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The second phase will go on for quite some time yet and entails figuring out how to improve workflows and streamline the application process by implementing an online submission tool to be integrated with the city’s existing backend technology. There are other tasks to be completed as well.

New applications received in the Etobicoke-York area will be assigned to C2K’s interdivisional application review teams. The plan is to eventually roll the initiative out to other areas over a period of time.

The C2K initiative was launched in response to an end-to-end review of the city’s development review process that was done in 2019 by KPMG. The objective of the review was to come up with suggestions to help create a better development review process that would result in good city-building.

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The review identified 31 largely systemic challenges impacting the development review process and concluded that the root cause was the overarching structure and organization of the process itself.

C2K will improve communication and collaboration between development applicants and city staff. There will be application co-ordinators who can provide progress updates on applications and resolve minor issues, in addition to relationship and issues management staff who can escalate complex issues for resolution by city leaders, as well as review teams to keep applications moving.

A new issue review process will help to ensure problems with applications are identified and resolved early on, with the goal of producing more efficient reviews with shorter turnaround times.
Technology will also be enhanced to make submitting an application more convenient and transparent for applicants and easier and less time-consuming for city staff to process, manage and prioritize.

Historically, municipalities have relied on antiquated paper-based submissions and review, leading to further inefficiencies in the approvals process. Builders are looking forward to the rest of the C2K initiatives being implemented. We are not producing enough housing to keep up with demand and anything that can speed up the process is welcome.

Richard Lyall, president of RESCON, has represented the building industry in Ontario since 1991. Contact him at [email protected]

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