City of Langford sued by provincial watchdog for not using architect

WatchThe City of Langford has found itself in legal trouble in its race to build more housing. B.C.'s architecture watchdog is sounding the alarm after a legally required step was skipped. Langford is calling it a cash grab. Julian Kolsut reports.

The City of Langford is being sued by a provincial watchdog, after allowing a project to go through without an architect.

A five-unit residential building with some commercial units on the 600-block of Hoffman Street was built with only a designer — something the Architectural Institute of B.C says is against the Province’s Architects Act, and can put the public at risk.

“The architect is the professional who stays involved in the whole process through to occupancy, making sure the building code is met and the building is constructed to design. if there is a problem there is an accountability mechanism… that’s not the case for a designer,” said Thomas Lutes of the Architectural Institute.

Court documents show that a home owner allegedly reached out to the city last year, raising concerns about how the building was approved. The person then notified AIBC.

In correspondence back the city said in a project this size is only required to enforce Langford’s building bylaws, not the Architects Act. Later on in the document the confusing area of enforcement is brought up.

Langford mayor Stew Young says he is confident city staff are capable of putting together a building of this size without an architect.

“I hate duplication, we shouldn’t be using my staff and architects staff. And for them to say it’s unsafe if Langford signs off… no I actually adhere to the building code. We have professionals, that’s what we do. [This is] basically a monopoly situation when every development in  Langford has to have an architect,” said Young.

If the city is required to have an architect for every future development, Young says the cost of new housing in his community could go up and that the move would add extra bureaucracy — slowing down quick permit approval.

But AIBC is pushing back.

“We think the protection of the Architects Act should apply across British Columbia, this is not about money, this is about public protection. We are a small organization in relation to the city of Langford. We would have the same response if this particular building was approved in the City of Vancouver,  Surrey Richmond or anywhere in the province.

Young is calling on the province to help, and if they don’t the city will likely give up.

“The problem with it is I can’t fight this myself, and I don’t want to take tax-payers money to fight this. This is a regional issue, a national issue,” added Young.

The province declined to comment on the matter, saying that it is now up to the courts to decide.

Julian KolsutJulian Kolsut

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