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Taking Housing Approvals Away from Local Government

David Eby, the attorney general for British Columbia, is proposing that local housing permit approvals be taken out of the hands of local governments.

Although there are many potential pitfalls with this idea, it is clear that the current housing approval process is no longer working. Currently it can take over a year for the City of Vancouver to approve a permit for a single family home. Larger housing developments can take anywhere from 3 to 5 years. 

With 55,000 people estimated to move to Greater Vancouver in 2022 we are continuously in catch up mode and this year we will be short around 10,000 homes.  This is great for those that already own a home, as it's an investment guaranteed to go up, if this gap can't be closed. 

The time it takes to approve a residential project adds cost to the development. Remember that developers finance the purchase of land. With the cost of land also on the rise, this component of the project can easily amount to 40% of the overall project cost. Developers must “carry” the cost to finance the land. The longer the approval takes the more it costs the developer.  This carry cost is passed directly on to the end buyer of the home(s). Imagine holding millions of dollars worth of land for 3-5 years while you wait to start construction. To me it is ridiculous. 

During the waiting period, the developer is also required to hire consultants to conduct “studies” (many of which are completely unnecessary). It is during this time that many, many community public information meetings are held. On top of all this the developer must negotiate with the city for public amenity packages (another huge fee paid to the city). The city uses these funds (sometimes very inefficiently) to fund the construction of public amenities that could most likely be built much more cost efficiently in the private sector. This “public amenity package” is on top of the Development Cost Charges (DCC’s) that were already in effect to fund infrastructure projects. 

After all this time and effort (remember the developer has been waiting up to 5 years at this point), there is no way to appeal zoning decisions made by the city to any authority. The entire process can be very opaque with many unknown costs along the way.

Bottom line is, if we are going to continue to embrace immigration, which is inevitable, to our beautiful city, we need more housing and we need a more efficient and flexible approval and permitting process. We need different forms of housing - not just more condos. We need housing for families, other than the now almost untouchable detached home.

What do you think would solve our housing crisis?

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