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Montreal aims to cut wait times for building permits to four months

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There is a push to build more housing units -- and quickly -- in Montreal, but some developers are growing frustrated with the bureaucracy.

"Last time I built in the Montreal area, in Griffintown, it took three years to receive my permits," said developer Luc Poirier.

Poirier said he's stopped taking on projects in Montreal and said many developers he knows are prioritizing builds in Ottawa and Toronto where it's faster to get a permit.

"Time is money, so... you pay for the land, you made plans, engineering and everything, and we always wait for the permit," said Poirier.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation said housing construction surged in major Canadian cities last year everywhere except in Montreal.

"There's a complexity building downtown of course," said Mayor Valerie Plante, who added that the permit delays are unacceptable.

She said that the city will standardize how permits are issued across boroughs, setting a target deadline of four months.

"My message is that we're going to do everything we can to standardize some of the processes to make it faster," she said.

A recent 'Chantier Montréal abordable' report on housing suggests the goal of building 120,000 units in the next ten years in Montreal, arguing that a 20 per cent increase in housing currently not on the market will curb rent increases and ensure sustainable affordability.

The report is also calling on Quebec and Canada to join the effort to develop social and affordable housing.

Montreal's opposition party said it does not have confidence in the city's ability to solve the housing crisis.

"It's unthinkable that the Plante administration has given itself the luxury of waiting for the housing crisis to get worse before proposing solutions to increase the supply of housing," said opposition leader Aref Salem. "What's more, we no longer have confidence in its ability to respond to the crisis, given that Montreal saw a historic drop in housing starts last year, that delays in issuing building permits have only increased over the past four years and, above all, that its promise in 2021 to develop 60,000 affordable housing units in ten years will never be kept. This administration has too often accustomed us to initiatives it is incapable of implementing."

Poirier thinks the city's target is overly ambitious.

"I will be dead before I saw four months for sure, but, one year would be good," he said.

Plante, however, is confident the new permit deadline will be in place in the coming months. 

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