City of Surrey sees real permitting progress after giving itself guaranteed timelines

Apr 27 2022, 3:15 am

Six months after self-imposing guaranteed permitting timelines for its review protocols, the City of Surrey is seeing significant overall progress on its wait times for between applying and receiving a permit.

A new city staff report provides data that suggests four of the five permitting categories have met or exceeded targeted timelines.

To help meet its guaranteed permitting timelines, established in October 2021, the city gave itself additional permitting staff, expanded the use of online digital permitting, and introduced an expanded after hours pilot program that extends the operating hours of city hall’s first and second floor property, planning, and development front counters until 8 pm for one day per week.

As a result of the new tools to speed up the application intake and review processes, 87.5% of complete single-family home applications were processed in an average time of 9.4 weeks in the first three months of 2022, and an average of 8.4 weeks in April 2022 to date — below the target of 10 weeks, and an improvement from the average of 14.6 weeks in the last three months of 2021.

The reduction in wait times for the category of single-family home building permit applications was achieved even though Surrey saw 266 applications in the first quarter of 2022 — a 30% increase over the same quarter last year. The city typically sees an average of 931 single-family applications each year.

When it comes to tenant improvement building permit applications, 69% of complete applications were processed in an average time of eight weeks in the first three months of 2022. This is below the target of 10 weeks, but it is a drop from seven weeks in the last three months of 2021. So far this month, the processing time has slightly increased above the target goal, as city staff are still busy with processing the applications received late last year.

However, city staff received 112 tenant improvement building permit applications in the first three months of 2022, which is 18% lower than the number of applications received in the same period in 2021.

For rezoning applications to enable single-family housing, this category saw its processing time reach an average of 8.6 weeks in the first three months of 2022, and 11.4 weeks in April 2022 to date — below the target of 12 weeks for simple/minor rezonings. In the first three months of 2021, Surrey processed nine simple rezoning applications.

For the large, complex rezoning applications to build multi-family housing (townhouses, low- and mid-rise buildings, and towers), the city did not have enough data to determine the rate of progress improvement. But it has established targets of 16 weeks for rezonings with a development permit, and 20 weeks for rezonings with a development permit and Advisory Design Panel review. There are no guaranteed timelines for rezonings with official community plan amendments given the high degree of complexity.

Each year, the city sees an average of 120 new applications for all types of rezonings combined.

As for site servicing reviews, another category, the processing times have dropped from an average of 2.9 weeks in the final three months of 2021 to an average of 2.4 weeks between January and April 2022 to date.

Moving forward, the city is looking to add more staff, and expand its use of online digital permitting processes. Earlier this year, it also began piloting an automated notification system to applicants of single-family building permits, with notifications sent four weeks from the anticipated processing time completion.

city of surrey permitting wait times april 2022

City of Surrey permitting wait times, April 2022 update. (City of Surrey)

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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