City’s new online booking system offers convenience for builders

Building permits are processed quickly with a mandated turnaround time, which varies depending on the type of building permit required according to the city’s director of development services.

THUNDER BAY — The process for arranging appointments with the City of Thunder Bay’s development services staff for construction projects and home building has become easier and now involves a few clicks online.

Contractors, homeowners, and others pursuing residential or commercial building projects, pre-consultation or planning applications can book appointments online by visiting appointment.

Joel DePeuter, director of the city’s development services, said the introduction of online appointment booking aligns with the city’s digital strategy and builds on the 2023 start of the property and permits portal, which allows users to apply and pay for many building permits and planning applications online.

“It’s part of a plan to make things easier and to modernize the way that building permits are processed and managed,” DePeuter said. “There has been a lot of progress towards making building permit applications and inspections digitally available.”

He added that building permits are processed quickly with a mandated turnaround time, which varies depending on the type of building permit required.

“Many building permits must be reviewed within 10 days,” he said.

Incomplete information within a building permit or things that don’t meet the building codes are what typically hold up the issuing of the permit. He said these are “marked” on the drawings and sent back to the applicants and then they wait for the applicant’s response.

“It’s often driven by the amount of time that it takes for the applicant to respond with a compliant way to complete a project,” he said.

DePeuter pointed out a “noticeable uptick” in building permit applications and called 2023 a “record-setting year” for building permit values in residential or multi-residential construction.

“We’re seeing a large uptake on the digital services that are available with more than 90 per cent of the applications being received online,” he noted.

Last year, Thunder Bay’s total construction value was around $450 million, which is more than double the five-year average.

“About half of that is accounted for with the new correctional facility, but even with that project removed, it was still higher than the five-year average,” DePeuter said. “The $12.7-million federal housing accelerator fund came into effect this year in 2024 and we’re already noticing an uptick in building activity and planning to accelerate that even further.”

As of the end of June of 2024, the city has issued 120 residential and multi-residential unit permits, which is double the city’s permit activity for the previous year.

Thunder Bay city council has recently approved incentive programs, many of which are aimed at further accelerating residential construction.

Additional incentive programs are coming before council on July 22, focusing on multi-unit residential spaces that will incentivize higher-density development.

“That’s still the case for smaller projects for reaching that top band of density that’s permitted by the zone,” DePeuter said. “This will apply to both smaller and very large multi-unit developments and an incentive to add additional units within existing homes.”

He added this is a good opportunity for homeowners and those who are interested in purchasing a home to be able to add additional value and receive additional revenue from the homes that they live in or seek to purchase.

The Chronicle Journal / Local Journalism Initiative

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