Working with Policy for Development Approvals
Leith R. Moore, Principal & Co-Founder of R-Hauz Solutions Inc., has gained a deep understanding of development approvals over his 35-year career. With dozens of projects behind him, he was driven to find a better approach that saves time and money by leveraging the existing municipal policies. The end result was repeatable housing products designed for Toronto’s avenues and laneways. Co-created with R-LABS, Leith and the R-Hauz co-founders are proving that innovation is the solution for limitations.
For years, the front-end process development approvals has remained the same. The production end of our business is very much about buying land and going through a long and complicated entitlement process that results in a one-off experience. We’re creating designs for a singular site that can take years to get the necessary approvals, especially for high-density projects like high-rise and mid-rise construction. This whole approach was a bit of a head-knocking experience for me so, at R-HAUZ, we took a step back to ask ourselves how we can do this better – which led to the V6 and V2 products.
The R-HAUZ products are the catalyst we needed to think outside-the-box while colouring within the lines. Rather than going through the approval process, we created something that works with established city policy in Toronto and can be adapted for other housing markets. The V2, our rear lane project, was created to meet the city’s zoning bylaws including the design guidelines and zoning standards so that it doesn’t require additional approvals. Likewise, the V6, our six-story mainstream product, is designed to work with the established midrise guidelines so that it doesn’t need rezoning. We might need a minor variance but these are typically related to parking or a slight adjustment where the zoning bylaw has not yet been brought up to speed to match the established policy of the guidelines. But even with a variance, we can take a three-year experience down to just a few months.
Because we’re not losing time on development approvals, we are able to put more of our energy on ideation and adaptation. The V6 is something that we can do in just about any city, anywhere so our ambition is to bring the process to other markets within the greater golden horseshoe. As for the V2, we definitely see it taking off in two other jurisdictions where we can adapt it to meet municipal policies. There is also an opportunity on many of the main streets where another floor or two would greatly improve our useable space. It could be a designated heritage home or something that already has good assets in place so you don’t want to tear it down. We can take this laneway idea and create a plug-and-play building system. It’s little more complicated but it inspires us to innovate.
Our success is a direct result of working with policy rather than against it. I remember a conversation I had years ago with George Carras, Founder & CEO of R-LABS, about all the time and money we save by eliminating approvals. We knew that if we could remove that barrier, we would be able to build better homes. You bleed away so much capital and energy getting approvals so now that we’re not fighting in that area, we’re actually more focused on design now than ever before. We’ve been able to turn production into a repeatable process that enables us to quickly build high-quality homes where people want to live. It’s funny; people still say, “Really? Six months for a six-story building?” and with our proven process, we can confidently say, “Yes, it’s not just possible. It’s happening”