The City of Vancouver is struggling to cope with a huge surge in development applications for single-family homes, ahead of a looming change in the building bylaw.

Staff are working weekends and overtime to process a flood of permits, up 40 per cent in February and March compared to the same period last year.

Contractors say waits of several months are delaying construction of the homes, including laneway and duplex housing, and costing them money.


The wait time for an appointment to submit a single-family home application in Vancouver has stretched to three months. (CP PHOTO/Chuck Stoody)

Custom home builder Jeff Langford plans projects months, if not years in advance, but says the delays are throwing him, and all the trades who depend on him, way off track.

"My frustration is the lack of staffing, also coupled by the lack of streamlining the system," said Langford.

The wait time for an appointment just to submit a single-family home application has stretched from about one week to three months.

'That surge just - I gotta tell you - it took us by surprise' - Vicki Potter, director of development services

Once the application is in, city officials say it could take more than three months to approve.

The Greater Vancouver Home Builders Association is so unhappy with the delays it is conducting a Lower Mainland-wide survey to compare speed and efficiency of planning departments.

Association head Bob de Wit says they're not alone. "I am hearing that across all of the cities," said de Wit, who hopes the survey might help planning departments learn from each other.

"There's a lot of efficiencies or inefficiencies in the process that we're trying to identify,."

Doorknobs banned

Director of development services Vicki Potter blames a surge of people trying to get their applications in before the building bylaw changes in July.

"That surge just — I gotta tell you — it took us by surprise," she said.

The building bylaw changes are aimed at making buildings more accessible and environmentally friendly, but some say they will make it more expensive to build homes. 

The new legislation requires all doorways be wider to accommodate wheelchairs, improved window insulation and a 240-volt electrical vehicle outlet in each carport or garage.

Vancouver will also become the first city in Canada to ban doorknobs, which will be replaced with more accessible levered handles in all new construction.

The new bylaw, which covers one- and two-family dwellings, is part of the City of Vancouver’s strategy to become the greenest city in the world by 2020.

Meanwhile, Potter says staff are working weekends and nights and she plans to hire extra people to get through the backlog.