City Well Positioned To Meet Housing Construction Changes Under Proposed Housing Supply Act
December 8, 2022
Significant changes are on the horizon for municipalities in British Columbia when it comes to housing construction and the City of Cranbrook is well positioned to meet the needs these changes may bring.
On November 21, 2022, Premier David Eby announced the creation of the proposed Housing Supply Act, designed to prioritize housing construction in municipalities through better collaboration between the province and local governments. These reforms, according to the Province of BC are meant to increase housing supply and control demand for housing. If passed, the Housing Supply Act is scheduled to be brought into force in mid-2023.
With these proposed changes, the onus is being pushed back onto municipalities like Cranbrook to find ways to speed up the turnaround on various approvals like rezoning, development permits and building permits with the intent to help streamline the ability of developers to build.
Several municipalities in the Okanagan – Penticton, Kamloops and Kelowna were recently recognized as leading the way on shorter wait times for development approvals than other parts of BC in a report released ahead of the October 15, 2022 municipal elections. The report, commissioned by the Canadian Home Builders Association of British Columbia credited those communities with fast approval average wait times of 13 to 14 months from time of receipt of completed application to when planning approval was granted. You can read the article here – https://www.castanet.net/news/Kelowna/388976/Development-approvals-faster-in-Penticton-Kamloops-Kelowna-than-in-other-parts-of-BC.
An internal review of development approvals undertaken by the City of Cranbrook in November 2021, which included research into 15 other municipalities in BC – including both Penticton and Kelowna – identified Cranbrook is able to complete the turnaround on development permits in a much faster two months, on average. The findings are highlighted in the report – Community Development: Comparative Review and Analysis.
The report found that the City’s Engineering and Development Service department has the fastest turnaround time from a completed application submission to the issuance of development approvals in all areas: development permits (DP); development variance permits (DVP), zoning bylaw amendments and Official Community Plan (OCP) amendments, than any of the other surveyed communities.
This despite that at the time of the research being conducted for the internal review, the Engineering and Development Service department had the lowest number of department staff compared to all surveyed communities. Since that time, three staff have been added to the department including two Community Planners and an additional Building Inspector/Planning Technician.
The internal report also identified that the City of Cranbrook has lower fees, charges, development cost charges (DCC’s) and community amenity contributions (CAC’s) than most of the 15 communities selected for data analysis.
“City staff do an amazing job working proactively with the development community and providing great customer services to get their projects online quickly, and these statistics back that up,” says Mike Matejka, Director of Engineering and Development Services, with the City of Cranbrook. “With the additional investments in new staff, permitting software, and updates to the OCP and Zoning Bylaw, the City is well positioned to work with all stakeholders to address housing needs.”
“Council is considering changes to the Official Community Plan and Zoning Bylaw that will allow increased diversification of housing types and sizes in Cranbrook,” says Mayor Wayne Price. “This would allow for smaller parcels with a greater amount of lot coverage, increased height and expanded dwelling capacity for R-1 and R-2 zoning types.”
A measure of growth in any community is the creation of new housing units. In 2020, the City of Cranbrook saw an increase of 18.3 housing units per 1000 people – which was identified as the highest rate of any community surveyed in the City’s internal report.
Several significant building projects undertaken over the past couple of years has created an increase in the number of doors in Cranbrook, most predominately being the Broadstreet Development on Innis Avenue providing nearly 300 new housing units. West Urban has two, multi-story apartment buildings in the queue for the city bringing approximately 146 additional new rental units online. Several other development projects are in line awaiting various approvals from both the Province and City Council.
“Since 2018, we have seen over 897 dwelling units built in Cranbrook, quite remarkable when you consider our size,” says Darren Brewer, Business Development Office with the City of Cranbrook. “We have refreshed almost ten percent of our housing stock in those five years. We have invested in ourselves and the results show it. “
As the City continues to grow and attract businesses and homebuyers, it is leading to an increase in the construction value, complexity, and volume of applications for permits and licenses. The City has recognized the need to support operations and continue to provide a high level of service to the community. One of the highest priorities identified was to shift to an online, digital system for land-based administration and application processes.
City staff will have one, well-designed, online system that will streamline and automate the administration of permitting and licensing processes. Applications will be received and processed digitally. Developers, builders, businesses, and the public will have the ability to apply for permits and licenses online and complete the entire process digitally. Applicants will be able to view the stages of their permits and be automatically notified throughout the process.