Editorial: Time to unravel municipal development complications


Developers: your city hall should be doing a better job for you.

As illustrated in the latest regional industrial Cost of Business Survey conducted by the Vancouver chapter of NAIOP, municipal costs and bureaucratic processes for getting development from blueprint to bricks and mortar continue to be onerous.

The commercial real estate development association’s 20th annual survey of those costs and processes used a 100,000-square-foot distribution centre as the building prototype in its 2019 study to determine comparative fees, number of permits needed and number of days required to get that development built in 17 Metro Vancouver municipalities.

Study results range from encouraging to unsettling.

The good news is that some municipalities have made progress in reducing costs and permit-processing times for development approval.

The City of Delta, for example, has cut total fees for commercial real estate development by 25.2% since 2017. The City of Vancouver has implemented a Nexus-style line for frequent users to address what has been a woefully slow development permit process in that municipality. Burnaby and Surrey have also improved commercial development application processing. But overall the bureaucratic landscape for developers in Metro Vancouver is inhospitable. NAIOP points out that municipal development fees across the region have increased by an average of 18% since 2017, and that only three of the municipalities included in the study have managed to reduce overall costs for developers.

For the first time since the NAIOP Cost of Business Survey was launched in 2001, the fee total for the building prototype used in the study breached the $1 million mark in three Metro municipalities.

Couple those costs with development approval wait times ranging from 120 days in Richmond, Chilliwack and Maple Ridge to 485 in Port Moody and 545 days in Surrey, and you have a building sector mired in red tape and delays that add to costs and deter construction of much-needed commercial, industrial and residential properties.