Why do I need a development permit?
Policies, initiatives, and community goals
Long-term policies, City Council initiatives, and community goals shape the broad outlines of how Vancouver and her neighbourhoods will look. Currently, the top three priorities (in relation to development) are sustainability, liveability, and accessibility.
Zoning regulates development by encouraging land uses and buildings that are in line with community goals and City Council's vision for the future of the city and its neighbourhoods.
Zoning district schedules specifies a variety of land uses for each district. Some uses are permitted "outright" but most are "conditional." (For more information, see the page "Zoning district descriptions").
When do I need a development permit?
You need a development permit for:
- All new construction
- Additions and exterior alterations
- Many changes of use of a building or land (either all or in part)
- Demolition of a building (sometimes)
When do I not need a development permit?
You do not need a development permit for:
- Building an accessory building that is permitted outright
- Moving interior walls and partitions (unless the building or use is a designated heritage building or site, or is located in the Chinatown, Yaletown or Gastown Historic Areas)
- Doing non-structural maintenance or minor repairs (unless the building or use is a designated heritage building or site, or is located in the Chinatown, Yaletown or Gastown Historic Areas)
- Changing the use of all or part of a building or land from one outright use to another outright use
NOTE: This list is not complete. There are many other situations for which you may need permits. For information specific to your situation, call the Development Services call centre or visit the Enquiry Centre.
If your project will involve both a change of use or conditional use, and construction or renovation, you will only need one development permit application.
The City is here to help
For information specific to the proposed project on your property, call the Development Services phone centre at 604-873-7611. Our staff will help you determine which permits you need, and help you navigate through the process, so you can speak to your contractor with confidence.
If you need a development permit for your construction or renovation project, you will also need a building permit and at least one related permit (gas, electrical, plumbing, tree removal, or other). Your development permit must be issued before you can apply for a building permit.
Simpler projects may qualify for a combined development-building permit.
The documents (forms, plans, and so on) that you need to submit with your application will vary depending on the type and scope of your proposed project. The Applications forms and checklists page has a list of project types. The appropriate checklist will tell you which documents, and how many copies of each document, you will need for your application.
As well, you will need pre-approvals from Engineering Services for applications related to one- and two-family dwellings.
Process and timeline
One- and two-family dwellings
- Bring your completed pre-approvals form to Engineering Services.
- Engineering Services will notify you when your application is processed, usually 3 to 4 weeks after you apply.
- Bring in your application and all supporting documents (including the engineering pre-approvals, if appropriate) to the Enquiry Centre. While you are there, staff will review your application to make sure it is complete. Staff may ask for additional information or documents.
- A decision will be made typically 8 to 14 weeks after you apply. The length of the review process varies with the complexity of the project, the number of applications under review by Development Services, and the number of review groups or additional steps involved.
All other buildings
- Bring your application and all supporting documents to the Enquiry Centre. While you are there, staff will review the application immediately to make sure it is complete. Staff may ask for additional information or documents.
- A decision will be made typically within 8 to 14 weeks after you apply. The length of the review process varies with the complexity of the project, the number of applications under review by Development Services, and the number of review groups or additional steps involved.