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Vancouver eyes stepping back on enforcing ‘net-zero’ regulations

June 14, 2021

The City of Vancouver’s new city manager has called for a one-year step-back on enforcing ‘net-zero’ regulations on new low-rise housing as part of sweeping measures to reform the city’s backlogged residential permit process.
The staff report, released June 2, also recommends not enforcing design guidelines in some zones because the city has so many new policies layered on to old ones that it’s reaching a breaking point.
For instance, a tree protection bylaw requires any new detached house or duplex to include an arborist report, which can cost up to $1,500 and delay construction.
“This regulatory complexity, combined with technology gaps, COVID-19 impacts and resource consequences as a result of decreasing revenues, led to an unsustainable imbalance between application demand and staff capacity to process that demand,” said the report from the city’s recently appointed city manager, Paul Mochrie.
According to Vancouver home builders, it can take more than two years to process a residential building permit.
One of the major holdups is a city requirement that new homes are built to superior energy standards as part of Vancourver’s plan to become Canada’s most green city.
“Approve a 12-month delay to the implementation of amendments to the building bylaw relating to mandatory zero emission building construction guidelines for all new homes, to enable [city] staff to remain focused on clearing existing backlogs before reallocating staff to developing the zero emission building compliance management framework,” the report recommends.
Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, who voiced support for the changes, said he has heard it is difficult for builders to even find products needed to meet new building net-zero standards such as the requirement that all new houses three storeys and below be built with electric heating.
While natural gas is plentiful in B.C. and popular with homebuyers, it is a fossil fuel and does not meet the city’s current bylaw standards.
“The supply chains are still developing,” the mayor said.
These new proposals, which follow years of complaints from builders about permitting issues, received a positive reception by some stakeholders—though some still had reservations.
“Of course it’s all welcome,” said Jon Stovell, president of Reliance Properties Ltd. and recent chair of the Urban Development Institute (a development-industry association). “But they’re not really being bold enough. They’re nibbling around the edges.”


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