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Home building not quick, not easy

By Jane Deacon

Builders face a wide array of fees and approvals processes in Metro Vancouver. (FILE PHOTO)

Builders face a wide array of fees and approvals processes in Metro Vancouver. (FILE PHOTO)


When it comes to homebuilding, it’s not just a question of cheap and quick equals better. It’s a more complicated picutre. — Meg Holden, SFU


The cost and timeline to get new housing projects off the ground varies widely throughout Metro Vancouver – factors that have some homebuilders feeling their work is compromised.

The findings are from the first report of Getting to Groundbreaking (G2G), a Simon Fraser University-led initiative that looks at Metro Vancouver’s ability to meet the housing needs of a projected one-million more residents by 2041. Collecting data from municipalities and homebuilders, it assessed each city’s ability to build new townhouses — one of the region’s most pervasive forms of housing.

The municipal fees to build a 22-unit townhouse vary by more than $25,000 across Metro Vancouver, from a low of $8,390 in White Rock and Port Moody to a high of $33,713 in Surrey.

Application timelines, meanwhile, vary from estimates of 39 weeks in White Rock to 72 weeks in Maple Ridge.

“Right now, we need about a building permit per month to keep the business running, and it’s taking two to six months,” reported one of 38 builders surveyed. “We’re going to have to lay off staff this summer as a result. And I’m not sure the city is getting a good return on its investment in this extra level of scrutiny, either.”

The cost variance comes down to the investments needed to accommodate new growth, whether it’s building new schools and roads or environmental concerns – something that’s significantly different from city to city, said Meg Holden, an SFU urban studies professor and lead on the G2G project.

But faster and cheaper isn’t necessarily better, she said. A broad range of municipal services — from a function website to planning services — come into play. As an example, predictability of fees is more important than the amount.

Vancouver, Richmond and Langley Township were deemed most capable of accommodating new building projects.


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