Vancouver, BC – Why is building new housing so difficult in British Columbia? Part of the complexity lies in the approval process, at both the municipal and the provincial levels.
Residential construction is one of the most regulated sectors of our economy. While each step or change to the approval process may seem like a small impact, together they can quickly impact housing affordability for homeownership and purpose-built rentals alike.
The Squamish First Nation’s Senakw proposal adjacent to the Burrard Street Bridge with an estimated 6,000 units, of which 80-90 per cent would be rentals, highlights this point.
While not subject to any City of Vancouver policies, bylaws or regulations, (only negotiations for vehicular access and utility connections will be required,) it is anticipated that construction could commence much earlier than would be the case with a ‘conventional’ project required to move through the standard city approval process choked by application and approvals processes.
The Homebuilders Association Vancouver (HAVAN) calculates the supply of new housing to be well below Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy Projection noting only the City of North Vancouver and the City of Richmond to be exceeding projections, with all other municipalities falling short, in many cases by a significant number. (Actual housing realized from 2011 – 2018.)
This begs the question: with our housing crisis, what can be done to ensure that municipalities across Metro Vancouver get the required housing supply in a timely manner?
HAVAN, in partnership with the Canadian Home Builders Association BC (CHBA BC) and delegates from across BC met with Premier John Horgan, Ministers Carole James, David Eby and Selina Robinson, plus over 55 MLAs and other cabinet ministers including Leader of the Opposition Andrew Wilkinson on Monday, November 25 in Victoria for CHBA BC’s second annual Day at the Legislature to discuss issues and proposed solutions presented in the Provincial Government’s Development Approvals Process Review (DAPR), a stakeholder consultation report published in September, looking at all the factors that impact development approvals.
HAVAN CEO Ron Rapp said ‘The DAPR review is a huge step forward by the Provincial government to help expedite development approvals and permits. This is a watershed moment for industry and government to work together and affect changes that will make the development process much more efficient, effective, and timely in order to re-establish a reasonable degree of predictability and stability to the housing sector. HAVAN encourages Minister Robinson to maintain the momentum and move to begin the process of turning recommendations to actions as soon as possible.’
Rapp notes ‘the Homebuilders’ approach calls for more simplicity in the process; more predictability in fees and charges and more consistency amongst municipalities within the region. We also advocated during the DAPR consultations for a re-examination of the role and timing of public input, and a review of the OCP/zoning mechanisms in city planning.’
The City of Vancouver is also undertaking its Regulation Redesign initiative, looking at their internal process. Several other local governments (Coquitlam, Langley Township) are also reviewing portions of their processes.
HAVAN has been advocating for reviews to the planning and permitting process for several years and is playing an active role in all the above consultations. HAVAN will continue to work with the Province and local governments to find solutions.