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Building permits creep up in Vancouver

April 7th, 2009 · 8 Comments

A Geoff Meggs blog is sometimes like getting to wander around city hall and pick up the latest stats off department-head desks. Here’s his latest post, with info on the level of building activity in Vancouver. Up a little — though not up enough that the Vision council will be cancelling any time soon their roundtable on how to spur more development in the city.

That conversation is in the works, with much discussion of what city relaxations exactly could make construction more attractive — reducing the number of mandatory parking spots in a building, reducing development cost charges, speeding up approvals. Whatever gets finalized, you can be sure that once the boom times come again, the city will find it hard to raise the bar back to where it got to in the last decade, when the city felt it could continue asking for higher standards and benefits from developers who were awash in profits.

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  • foo

    No, Vancouver’s development is not picking up. Compare the year-over-year numbers if you want the real picture. Feb 2009 building permits are down 25% over Feb 2008. (

    The only reason Feb looks good compared to Jan, is that Jan permits were down 54% over 2008!

  • Desmond Bliek

    “…roundtable on how to spur more development in the city.

    That conversation is in the works…”

    Any knowledge on how that conversation is being managed? It’d be great to know more about how changing the development process in response to this downturn could impact (positively and negatively) housing supply and affordability, amenity provision, etc… Who’s round the table and what’s on it?

  • fbula

    Good question. I will ask and get back to you.

  • Chris

    Reduce the number of parking spots required, please! It’s such a waste. In my building, only half of the spots are actually used.

  • Joe Just Joe

    The problem is there is a demand for them, try selling a unit without a spot and you’ve just reduced your clientele by at least 50%. I agree that reducing the requirement is a good thing though, as you will be able to find a few purchasers that do not need the spot and would rather save $25-30K, but this isn’t going to change much on the development front.

  • MB

    About forty percent of West Enders do not own cars. I’m not sure what the stats are for Yaletown, Coal Harbour or Downtown South, but a significant portion of residents in these neighbourhoods walk more than they drive.

    I believe it was about 15 suites in the Paramount building that purposely did not have single parking spaces assigned to each unit, but shared around 8 co-op car stalls, therein bringing down the overall parking requirement.

    Some may argue that at up to $55,000 per underground stall, the developer “got away” with “lowering standards.” Others will argue that lopping off a big chunk of the cost of parking from the purchase price of a condo is a positive step toward creating affordable market housing.

    I believe the most important message, though, is that the city created the conditions where such things are possible.

  • To Drive or Walk …

    From my observations individuals make their own decisions based on their personal economic realities. If they need a car or can afford to own one, they will pay for that convenience.

    MB, I mayhave missed something but I’m not sure what argument your point about 40% of Westenders not owning cars is meant to support. The majority of housing stock in the Westend was built before parking stalls were required, for every unit, and the West End is close enough to downtown to allow it’s residents to walk most places. Therefore you should expect to see a high percentage of people who don’t own vehicles living in this area.

    I personally find it comical that city politicians go on-and-on about public transit but then require developers to build parking spots in their buildings which in turn just encourages/accommodates more cars.

    Perhaps a compromise could be something along the following lines. Allow developers to build less parking spots than housing units but make the parking spots separate strata units within the building. That way the market could separate the value of the parking stall from the value of the condo/apartment. Those that want a spot can buy one, those that don’t can save their money. A unit holders strata fees would also be reflective of the extra parking space square footage that they owned.

    Regarding the high cost of building rental units. Perhaps the city should encourage developers to build rental units around rapid transit lines with increased density and decreased parking requirements. I’m sure any Urban Economist or Developer could figure the cost benefit analysis required to get rental stock built.

    I would also support the city designating more “permit only” parking in high density areas.

    I don’t think we will see a reduction in the amount of cars on the road until people have the direct cost of owning a car in their face at all times.

    FTR: I own a car, live in Kits, rent a parking spot, own a Kits parking permit, and regularly take taxis and public transit.

  • foo

    No question the residents of the downtown core use cars less, but they own just as many as residents of the suburbs.

    See the link below, which indicates the 90% of residents of FCN own at least one vehicle. The opinion seems to be that even if you can do without a car most of the time, you can’t do without it all the time.