What would it take to get more affordable townhomes to market? New report provides answers

If a developer buys land to build affordable townhomes in Metro Vancouver, how long will it take before we see “for sale” signs? It turns out no one could answer this question with any certainty, until now.

Thanks to a new research report, Getting to Goundbreaking (G2G), developers, builders, planners, REALTORS® and others have a much better idea of the time it takes and the costs involved in the process to develop a townhome project.

G2G was produced by the Greater Vancouver Home Builders' Association (GVHBA) in partnership with the Urban Development Institute and Simon Fraser University’s Urban Studies department.

The report examines the residential building approval process for a townhome development to:

  • Compare differences and similarities;
  • Identify best practices among municipalities and home builders; and
  • Uncover ways to reduce unnecessary time and cost in residential approvals.

Key Findings:

Problem: the availability of land. Currently, just 9% of Metro Vancouver’s land is greenfield – open and undeveloped.

Solution: higher density in multi-unit forms. 500,000 new homes will be needed in Metro Vancouver by 2041 to accommodate one million new residents. 75% of new homes will be built on infill land, on side lots or backyards. Planning and design processes need to be more creative to preserve our quality of life.

Problem: Each municipality has varying fees and charges for development cost charges and levies, which add to the cost of homes. Community amenity charges are often not quantifiable at the outset, which adds uncertainty to project costs.

Solution: a simple formula of fees, and more collaboration and transparency.

Problem: each municipality has complex application processes and varying processing times.

Solution: less red tape and more efficiencies when it comes to rezoning, development permit, subdivision, servicing agreement and building permit processes.

Problem: processing timelines, fees and charges affect the housing supply by hindering a municipality’s ability to meet targets for housing affordability, availability and livability.

Solution: develop best practices and innovations such as more digital communications, online access to detailed application status by department, online engagement for major projects or policies and more use of staff discretion.

What makes a Metro Vancouver municipality a great place to build a townhome development?

It’s not a simple formula. It includes lower fees, streamlined and efficient processing times, an effective website and digital communications, staff dedication, and clarity when it comes to regulations. The G2G report ranks the top 10 municipalities in a Housing Partnership Index which factors in fees, charges and timing, and regulatory processes.

Rankings on the 2014 Housing Partnership Index

1      Langley Township
2      Richmond
3      Vancouver
4      Port Moody
5      Coquitlam
6      Surrey
7      Maple Ridge
8      White Rock
9      Port Coquitlam
10    City of North Vancouver

In 2015, the G2G report will focus on apartments; and in 2016, on detached homes.

Metro Vancouver includes 22 municipalities and one treaty First Nation. Of these, 19 municipalities participated in this study. Burnaby, New Westminster and Langley City did not participate.

Read the entire report by clicking here.

Read a summary of the reports key findings by clicking here.