Development and building construction in Vancouver is growing so fast that city officials say they can’t keep up with permit applications.
As a result, they want to hire another 18 people at an annual cost of $1.7 million to clear a backlog of work and keep lineups down as developers and builders head into a busy summer season, especially for starter homes in Vancouver.
Doug Robinson, the city’s manager of development services, said in a report going to council next week that business declined sharply after the 2008 worldwide economic downturn. As a result, the city instituted a hiring freeze and staffing levels declined in various departments.
But now business is returning and the city doesn’t have the staff to match service levels. Adding staff would cut down waiting times and reduce customer frustration, he said.
“The current volume of applications with the existing staff component makes it difficult to find time to identify and implement processing improvements that would enhance the customer experience and increase efficiencies,” he said in his report.
In 2010, vancouver processed nearly 40,000 permits for a variety of services, for a total value of about $28 million, compared to 35,000 permits worth $21 million in 2009. Over the same period staff declined to 140.
BC Stats reports that total building permit values in Metro vancouver for the first four months of 2011 rose by 20 per cent over the same period in 2010. Residential permits for new Vancouver homes rose by a modest 11.7 per cent over the same period, this is especially the case for condos in vancouver. The biggest gains were in industrial (68.6 per cent) and commercial (57.6 per cent).
Peter Simpson, the president of the Greater vancouver Home Builders Association, said his members are seeing a modest recovery in business, and the additional staff would be appreciated. His association is worried about a growing underground economy in renovations, and anything the city can do to prevent people from doing work without permits is good.
“I haven’t received a lot of complaints from my members about lineups at city hall. But we have a real problem with the underground economy, and if people are frustrated at lineups at the counter, they will do the work and not bother to get a permit,” he said. “In the long run that’s not good for the homeowners, who are left exposed in case something goes wrong.”
Source: Jeff Lee, vancouver Sun