City of Vancouver staff reviewing building permits from home for now

Mar 23 2020, 5:38 pm

Throughout 2019, the City of Vancouver issued nearly 5,600 building permits with a combined value of $3.69 billion, but achieving anywhere near a similar level of activity for 2020 is now improbable given the likelihood that the coronavirus pandemic will last for months.

And this does not include the possible prolonged economy recovery period that will begin near the tail end of the crisis.

For the time being, the municipal government is still reviewing and approving some building permits. However, city manager Sadhu Johnston indicated in a press conference on Friday that such non-essential work is expected to trail off this week as the municipal government begins to focus all of its attention on addressing the state of local emergency.

City staff have been trying to do as much as possible from home and with the technological access they possess, but there will be less of this activity moving forward.

“We continue to evaluate our services as an organization. We are focused on maintaining essential services, and that’s fire, police, waste collection, water, sewers, animal control, and a number of other core services that we are focusing on to make sure we have the staff and ability to provide those services. It will be a strain for us to continue to provide those services,” he said.

“As a result, we will be scaling back some of the non-essential work that we’ve been attempting to pursue. Much of that will continue at home; we’ll do the best of our ability to review building permits and other work of that nature from home using technology and our business continuity planning.”

But city inspections for development, building, trades, fire, and licensing are currently continuing as normal, with inspectors still inspect projects at several stages of construction.

In January of this year, city staff approved 454 building permits, including 350 permits that are new construction or renovations, and 51 permits that are demolitions. The combined value of the work for these permits is $417 million.

The following month, in February, a total of 425 building permits worth $177 million were approved, including 336 permits for new construction and renovations, and 55 demolitions. So far this year, the number of approved permits totals 879 worth $593 million.

Construction work is still allowed at this time, as long as workers practice the new health and safety regulations enacted by the provincial and municipal governments.