Vancouver City Council motion targets permit backlog and delays

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Two Vancouver City Councillors are trying to clear the backlog of permit applications due to lengthy delays, some of which are years old.

NPA councillors Sarah Kirby-Yung and Lisa Dominato are pushing a motion aimed at clearing the growing backlog by September 2022.

Dominato explains the delays in permit applications have affected a wide-range of people.

Whether homeowners trying to do renovations or businesses trying to operate under COVID restrictions, Dominato says people are frustrated.

“The pandemic has exacerbated the existing backlog and challenge because all of a sudden you had services that were typically delivered and dealt with face to face suddenly move all online without the technology backbone behind it. That’s why the motion calls for multi year budget around what kind of technology do we need in order to deliver a more efficient and effective service for all citizens in the city.”

She adds, bureaucratic hurdles and frustration also lead to people cutting corners.

“Then it goes underground, and they’re not seeking permits. That’s certainly not something we want to see either.”

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Dominato says this issue touches so many people and she wants to ensure things done correctly and timely.

“People are trying to do basic home renovations, or retrofits to open commercial renovations and restaurants. I’ve had examples of a childcare business wanting to set up and wants some certainty around the timelines because they need to secure a lease. Then they have to figure out the carrying costs of that lease and also comply with Vancouver Coastal Health. It touches every part of our city.”

This delay is not only causing frustration but also lost earnings as well.

LOCO BC, an organization which reports on independent businesses, performed a study in 2020 showing the average wait time for a permit or licence in Vancouver is 8.2 months.

Average economic loss per business permit or licence is around $720,000 or around $31,000 per week, per business.

This total includes opportunity cost losses, lost supply chain sales, employment income, and rent.

The study’s partners include the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, Blueprint, Building Owners and Managers Association of BC, and the Vancouver BIA Partnership.

Dominato says she really wants to press the “reset button” and rebuild the system since current inefficiencies won’t be addressed just by improving wait times.

“We really do need to streamline and simplify our regulations, some of which often conflict with each other and actually add more time to the permit processing approach and so that’s something I think we really need to hone in on.”

The motion to create an action plan will go to council on Tuesday.

If passed, city staff will have a timeline of 30 days to bring a solution before city council.

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