What is the province’s message to cities these days? Hard to tell, as we seem to be getting multiple messages.
There’s a lot of chatter in the background about how the province wants cities to boost their density around transit and help speed up supply by reducing the time to get permit.
But on the record, different ministers are saying different things.
I had an interview last weekend with Housing Minister Rich Coleman and TransLink Minister Peter Fassbender. They delivered a soft message, saying they’re not going to force municipalities to do anything, but will have “conversations” to encourage more density around transit and more “conversations” to talk about extracting money from developers because of the increase in their land values around transit, as a way of paying for said transit.
Then Rob Shaw at the Vancouver Sun had Finance Minister Mike de Jong with a somewhat harder line in this week’s paper, talking about carrots and sticks to force cities into zoning in more density around transit and, specifically, speeding up their permit times.
Sure sounds like developers have the ear of cabinet ministers whenever I hear that last line. Indeed, it’s true that some cities can be glacially slow about approving even routine developments — not even those that are generating resident backlash.
But the way the province keeps bringing up the “100,000 projects waiting for permits” in the region is an over-reach — some of those are only inquiries, for one. Others are perhaps rightly being held up because the project is crap.
I’ll be waiting to see how this one plays out and whether anything really happens, or whether this is all just noise to make it look like someone is doing something.