First-time homebuyers would foot the bill for thicker wall bylaw, says contractor

A proposed bylaw that would increase the thickness of outside walls for newly built townhomes and low-rise aparments could cost homebuyers an extra $10,000.

Additional construction costs would mean thousands of extra dollars attached to the asking price of units

When finished, The Heights development on East Hastings and Skeena Street hopes to meet 'passive house' certification requirements for energy efficient, low emission buildings (Cornerstone Architecture)

Vancouver home buyers can expect to spend thousands of extra dollars on new townhomes and low-rise apartments, if the city follows through on a proposed thicker wall bylaw, according to building contractors.

A report to city council recommends new changes to Vancouver's building bylaws, including an increase of an inch-and-a-half in the current width of outside walls for new townhomes and buildings under six storeys, so more insulation can be added to the structure.

While the move is meant to reduce energy costs and help Vancouver achieve its greenhouse gas emissions goals, it could also add up to $15,000 to the cost of a unit, according to Chris Gardner, president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association.

"What the City of Vancouver is offering is getting in the way of affordable housing for first time homebuyers and young families," he told host Stephen Quinn on CBC's On the Coast. "They're adding on costs, and I think it's the wrong approach."

According to the city's green building planner, Chris Higgins, cost to super-insulate new residential complexes will range between $2 and $4.08 per square foot, and homeowners will save money in the long run by reducing heating costs.

But Gardner says he's crunched the numbers, and that it would take up to 120 years of energy savings to make up for the additional housing costs.

A need for public consultation

He says the city's goal to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from new constructions by 2030 may be well intentioned, but it's misguided.

"[The City of Vancouver] is missing the point, and they're not doing anything to deal with the most pressing issue facing young families — and that's affordability."

Gardner is also critical with what he says is a lack of public consultation on the city's part.

"They're layering on costs and regulations and bylaws that are going to hurt first time homebuyers in the city," he said. "If they're not talking to residents, if they're not talking to small business owners, to construction companies, they're not going to get the kind of feedback they need to develop policies that are going to work for the City of Vancouver."

The report is scheduled to go before council, Feb. 7. 

If approved, the recommendations would be implemented in March 2018. 

With files from CBC's On the Coast

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: First-time home buyers would foot the bill for thicker wall bylaw, says contractor