Archaic processes and ridiculously long building permit wait times could be a thing of the past for minor housing projects in the city.
The City of Vancouver announced today it is aiming to reduce building permit processing times for new single-family homes and laneway homes from the current timeframe of 28 to 38 weeks to a much more reasonable six to eight weeks.
This will be tested through a new fast-lane pilot program, known as the Applicant Supported and Assisted Process (ASAP). It will initially include 20 to 30 projects to “test new ideas” that can be scaled into the regular permitting process, if these new methods prove successful.
Several steps in the regular permitting process will be streamlined to “maximize efficiency,” and the changes include running portions of the application in parallel, requiring specific information at the beginning of the application process instead of mid-stream, and issuing permits at the same time where applicable.
“This pilot is one of several new measures implemented by the city to speed up the delivery of new housing, and streamline planning and development processes,” said Kaye Krishna, the City’s General Manager for Development, Buildings and Licensing, in a statement.
“This includes piloting new ideas, a system-wide review of our policies and processes, and adding more staff across our departments to better meet demand.”
The municipal government will work with a limited number of “experienced designers and buildings” in the pilot program, and these are defined as builders that have a good history with the city of producing complete, high-quality permit applications in the past, and are knowledgeable about the process.
But builders participating in the pilot program must partake in a mandatory pre-application review, provide more detailed information about each application upfront, ensure the same business contact is available throughout the entire application process from start to end, and commit to certain turnaround times for each step in the process.
“The Greater Vancouver Home Builders’ Association is fully supportive of the City of Vancouver’s ASAP permitting pilot project. We have been working with city staff for several years on this project, and are very pleased to see it reach the piloting stage,” said Bob de Wit, CEO of the Greater Vancouver Home Builders’ Association (GVHBA).
“The GVHBA will continue to work closely with the City of Vancouver and other local governments to improve the residential permitting process, to the benefit of homeowners, industry, and municipalities.”
In addition to the changes to policy, the city previously announced it intends to hire more staff over the next two years to help expedite processing times and improve planning and development services. The goal is to create 75 additional full-time positions across three departments relating to permitting.
Permit wait times have soared over the past few years from the city’s inability to keep up with the growing number of applications, which has contributed to the housing affordability and supply crisis. In 2013, over 1,300 development and building permits were issued for new homes and laneway homes.
A report last year found that Vancouver had the longest overall building permit approval time with an average of 21 months, just ahead of West Vancouver at 18.3 months and Surrey at 13.2 months.
But the city says it is already seeing improved response times from other policy changes made this year to date. For instance, landscape review times for single-family homes have fallen by 80%, and wait times at the Development and Building Services Centre decreased by 30%.
As well, the average permit times at the Commercial Renovation Centre is now down to an average of under four weeks.