B.C. may take some permit powers from municipalities to get housing built


The provincial government is looking at making changes to the housing permit process to address housing affordability in B.C.

According to Statistics Canada B.C.’s population is growing at an annual rate of 7.6 per cent.

There is not enough housing to go around.

The provincial government is considering taking away some of the permit powers from municipal governments to get more homes built, faster.

David Eby, B.C.’s Attorney General and minister responsible for housing, says the approval process for some municipalities can be too slow.

“The challenge we face is that municipalities are working with outdated processes around building approvals and oversight that prevent them from adequately responding to this significant demand,” Eby said in a statement.

“We’re considering legislation to modernize these processes and help municipalities expedite and support faster approval processes, eliminate excessive and redundant steps, and establish required minimum housing development targets to meet the growing need. It’s clear that the status quo is not working.”

READ MORE: B.C. prepares to remove some housing approval powers from local governments: minister

Eby says the steps the province is looking at aims to make the process of approving housing faster.

“This is not about taking away power from B.C.’s municipalities. This is about empowering them to bypass some of the obstacles – such as the permit approval stage – that prevent housing from being built in the first place. Each community has its own unique needs when it comes to delivering housing,” Eby said. “We have a lot of work to do. We are reviewing all off our options and progress on policy work continues to be made. I’ll have more to say in the coming months.”

Luke Mari with Aryze Developments said it’s a step in the right direction.

“Any steps towards increasing the supply of housing is welcomed,” Mari said.

On busy Foul Bay Road, a vacant lot in the 900-block is heading to Victoria committee of the whole.

If approved, the project will house 16-units, each with three bedrooms, and it will include an affordable housing component, according to Mari.

“And as of today, there is not a single three-bedroom home available to purchase in the neighborhood of Gonzalez,” Mari said.

With the permit process taking years, Mari said the consequences are felt in the market.

“Initially, it was 100 per cent affordable housing under BC Housing program, but just the sheer length of time it’s taken to get permitting we’ve experienced a 65 per cent increase in construction costs during that time.”

READ MORE: Affordable housing units on Johnson Street go up for sale, nearly 70 per cent already bought

Stew Young, mayor of Langford, says in Langford approval is viewed in months, not years

“We can do it in three months. And if it’s a project that has some affordable amenities with it, we’ll try to fast track it as much as we can because we know we’re in a crisis,” Young said.

Langford’s growth outstrips any other municipality in Greater Victoria, and it’s the fastest growing community in B.C.

“When you tackle problems like the crisis, and this is a housing crisis, you put as much energy as you can to solve the problem,” Young said.

The Craig Hodge, Metro Vancouver representative for the Union of BC Municipalities said the organization is working with the province, but he’s concerned about communities losing a say in what’s built.

“It comes as a surprise that the, quite frankly, the minister is pointing a finger at local government and saying that we are the problem. We have shown great success throughout the province in producing housing,” Hodge said.

The province is looking at legislation this fall for minimum housing development standards.

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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