Residents, businesses, and not-for-profits demand and deserve accountability on permitting crisis
Vancouver, B.C., April 1, 2021 – Mayor Kennedy Stewart has rejected a plan to clear a massive backlog of permits that are choking citizens, businesses, and not for profits.
The motion, proposed by NPA Councillors Lisa Dominato and Sarah Kirby-Yung, would have set clear deadlines to eliminate the backlog, directed staff to streamline regulations, implement new technologies, and provide an accountability framework to better serve residents, businesses, and not-for-profits looking for timely permit approvals. The Mayor struck the motion replacing it with a watered down version with no firm timelines or accountabilities to clear the backlog.
“What gets measured, gets done and citizens are desperately looking for leaders who are accountable for solving real life challenges,” said Councillor Kirby-Yung. “This is a missed opportunity to improve citizen services that matter for residents and businesses in every corner of our city.”
While City staff have been working to address the existing backlog and the overregulated, complex nature of the permit system, a perfect storm hit in 2020 with the onset of a global pandemic. The City was forced to move to online service delivery without the technology backbone in place. This exacerbated an already overburdened system. Now there is an urgency to put accountability measures in place to deliver the changes citizens are calling for.
“There is urgency to act now and establish a clear, strategic direction to prioritize these services,” said Councillor Dominato. “The permitting backlog is holding up everything from the creation of new child care spaces and opening of small businesses to much needed housing and home renovations.”
The BC Liberal and NDP provincial governments both identified permitting backlogs and delays as a barrier to housing solutions. According to media reports, a recent study found that the average wait time for business permits and licensing in Vancouver is 8.2 months, with the average economic loss per business permit or license estimated to be over $720,000 or about $31,000 per week.
The Provincial government is also accepting applications from municipal governments for grants to improve development approval processes, including new technology solutions, and providing external reviews of internal methods.
Councillors Dominato and Kirby-Yung fought to include a clause that directs staff to substantially reduce the existing backlog of permits and licenses for only smaller scale projects by the end of Q2 2022. However, the Mayor struck out a 30-day action plan to clear the full permit backlog by Q3 2022 and a medium-term plan to address systemic issues in City systems and processes.
NPA Councillors vowed to continue to bring permit and license challenges forward and to work with staff directly to develop effective strategies that are accountable to the public. This builds on the 2018 motion of NPA Councillor Melissa De Genova to expedite building and development permits.
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Sarah Kirby-Yung: 604-788-1352
Lisa Dominato: 778-980-4422