City of Vancouver pledges to speed up development permits

Hoping to buy a home in B.C.? Sorry, it's not likely to get much cheaper

The City of Vancouver says it will implement measures to improve the city's building permit process which has been plagued by excessive delays and high volume.

In 2016, the city received 8,300 permit applications, the second highest volume of applications the city has seen to date, according to a report released by the city.

Housing development reached an all-time high over the past two years, the report revealed, and development wait times have increased significantly.

For example, in 2013 the median wait time for a low-density permit — like the construction of a new house or an addition — was almost 9 weeks.

In 2016, the City says it increased to almost 29 weeks.

Looking at 'pain points'

Kaye Krishna, the City of Vancouver's general manager of development, buildings, and licensing, said the wait times have increased because of the volume of applications and because the city has encouraged more complicated developments.

"We've done more and more over the past few years to enable laneway housing and accessory dwellings. We went from what used to be fairly simple single-family homes to much more complicated developments," she explained.

"With that, there are some more rules but there is also just learning that's taken place between industry and staff on how to best do that."

Krishna said she and city planner Gil Kelley have listened to stakeholders about what the "pain points" are in the development permit process and her team is working on simplifying policies and regulations for low density applications.

They are also working on establishing service targets to aid staff as well as permit applicants.

New technology to aid process

Krishan said the city has recently adopted a new technology platform which will give her team access to data across the development process.

But she admitted the simplifying process could take a "long time" especially when housing demand is projected to grow in the region.

"Development is hard and it's always striking a balance between quality, safety, real creativity and design, and speed," she said.

"Anytime you have those trade offs, it takes a while."

With files from The Early Edition

To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled Building permit process will improve, City of Vancouver says